My name is Julie- I've been employed at S***** since January 2009. I am the full-time LPN in the evening. Throughout these last four years, I've come to learn about many life stories of my friends that have come to know S***** as "Home". Those first few weeks are hard on any new resident that comes to live in an unfamiliar place. I've seen someone who has become angry with the family, wanting to leave and 'go home' ...begin to open up and call some of their fellow peers 'friends'. The family comes to visit and can't believe the difference their loved one has made. It takes time, but soon, I start to see an adjustment and even some comfort in their eyes. They finally feel their loved one has settled in, and can be assured that they are safe.
Most of the residents who reside here have some sort of dementia/Alzheimer's diagnosis. I've been through some of the same emotions as the family- my own grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2006. When grandma started to forget my name, or ask "now which kid are you?", I knew something was wrong. She was always well aware and knew each of her grandkids names, as well as their birthday, and never forgot! Through my background in the medical field, I knew that what we were facing was not the usual "forgetfulness", but all the same, it hit us all in different aspects. We loved her for who she was and embraced her just the same.
S****** has recently undergone some changes. As you may know, we have a new executive director, M.G. You may have stopped by his office for a talk, he may have given you some insight as to what changes he has instore for S******, or maybe on a Friday afternoon you have heard him belting out some familiar tunes with his acoustic guitar while the residents sing along, closing their eyes while taking in the sounds that bring back a memory of their younger years. We are in the midst of many changes- not only are we undergoing a change in updating the wall colors and giving our building a "facelift", but we are also undergoing a change in our approach to resident care.
We are not the only Assisted living in the area with a Memory unit- you may have noticed many are being built in the area or are already in business. What makes us different? Maybe it's our residents. The laughter, the friendship, the way that they make our staff's days a little better. The way that they make us feel while we are at work, and how they still seem to live in our hearts long after we have gone home.
Home. What makes a home? Is it the way it's built, or is it the way it feels when you enter the front door? When you enter, you know you're home when you see your loved ones. We don't have "rooms" here... some of the resident's invite me into their "house", their "apartment" or simply welcome me into their world.
Many of you may not know this, but last summer I moved into my very first home. How did I hear about it? I didn't see it posted in the newspaper or ran across it while I was driving down the street. I was having a light conversation with one of the resident's here at S******. I had asked her where she had lived before she moved to S****** and she told me she lived in B******* in a "cottage by the lake" ...I asked her if she missed living at home and she said she realized she just couldn't do for herself living in her home by herself and told her son and daughter-in-law that it was time for her to live in a 'community'. This is how I met R****. I'd wave to her while she had her legs propped up in her recliner in the evening time, watching reruns of 'home improvement'. Sometimes, when I got the chance, she would tell me to "pull up a chair" and we would talk. These moments made my nights a little better. I had asked her about her little cottage on the lake... she told me that it had been on the market since she moved in (at that time it was 2 and a half years). We just casually talked and I told her that James and I were just starting to look for a place to settle down. She said, "Oh my, you should go look at my home!" I told her that I would drive by it and she shook her head and said, "No, no...you must go in!" as she pointed her finger at me and insisted, with a gleam in her eye. What did it hurt, to check out the place that she once called home? I would get a glimpse of her life before she moved into S*******. The second James and I met R***'s son and daughter-in-law, who live next door, and entered the house, we fell in love with it. A quiet neighborhood, a cozy home with a fireplace, a sunroom and a beautiful lake in the backyard, it was love at first sight!
R**** was very insightful and had everything lined up and ready to go. She is in her 90's but her youthfulness is not a day over 50! She was young again- reflecting her life with what lay before James and I- our love growing stronger while starting our own lives together as R*** did with her husband. She could see again that her "home" wasn't going to stay vacant, that she wasn't losing a place that she loved dearly to complete strangers. So in the summer, we signed papers and arranged everything for us to move in. She was estatic! On Christmas morning, while at a small family gathering at James' mom's, he proposed to me! That afternoon, when I came into work and told R***, her eyes gleamed with tears as she wrapped me in a hug and told me, "You'll make a beautiful bride!" Then took my left hand and beamed, as memories of her first love entered her mind. So on June 22nd, I will be marrying my first love. I know R*** will be just as happy as I am, and she'll hear plenty of my stories as we share, once again, an evening of conversation.
What makes a home? Is it the building, or is it the stories that are being made? I think it's the people, the laughter, the love and above all, the friendship. Thank you to all my friends that live at S******, work at S******, or have a loved one that resides here- you make all the difference. I'm glad I'm here to experience it with you.