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Small Steps

My professional love for seniors started in our home health care business. Through my work, I had the opportunity to meet CJ in 2015. CJ was 90 years young, still quite feisty and wanted to be active even though her body made that more and more difficult. She loved the feeling of weightlessness when swimming, however, she could not manage the locker room alone, due to pain in her shoulders and knees. After a brief consult, it was decided that our staff would help her maintain her independence by assisting her with outings to the pool and housework.  As the consult was finishing up, she showed me around her apartment. It was obvious that she was very proud of her Norwegian heritage, and the fact that she was a teacher for over 40 years. The sparkle in her blue eyes was present, and as I was packing up to go, she handed me a card. It was hand stamped and colored. “I’d like you to have this, “she said. “I make these to fill my time, and I really appreciate you coming today.” I was touched. When back at the office, I clipped the card on my bulletin board.

Fast forward a few years, I received a call. “Hi, you probably don’t remember my mom CJ, but she asked me to call you. She needs some help.” With a smile I answered, “Of course I remember CJ; she likes to make cards and swim.” That seemed to break the ice, and CJ’s daughter started to share all that was going on with her mom. Now in an assisted living facility, instead of her apartment, CJ’s health had begun to decline. The pain in her shoulders was more significant and chronic. Since she was weaker, she was wheelchair-bound, needed a Hoyer for transfers and could no longer wheel herself. “The place where mom is now is nice enough, just the staff forget about her a lot. She will wait in the dining room sometimes hours since she can’t get back to her room on her own. I think even though we are paying for her to be there, we need a caregiver to come and help her out again.” She discussed how often CJ’s pain meds would be given late and that it was hard to keep her comfortable.

“I’m so glad you called because I believe I may be able to help you with a better solution.” I shared all about The Geneva Suites. We discussed the beautiful environments and, more importantly, the unique personal care. Our model has three significant differentiators from other options: amazing care partner to resident ratios, chef-prepared meals, and physical therapy twice a week for our residents. “This sounds too good to be true; do you have time to show my mom and me around?” After the tour, the family decided to move forward.

On the move in day, I caught up with CJ in her room, already decorated with pictures of her children and grandkids. I recognized the painting of her cabin that had hung in her apartment years ago and her card making station. “It looks like you are settling in CJ,” I said, “We are excited to have you.” With a smile of delight in her eyes, she enthused “I’m ecstatic, and I can’t wait to start with PT. I want to be able to transfer on my own again.”

“Mom, we talked about this. You are 93 now and haven’t walked in over a year. Transferring and walking are probably not going to happen.” Seeing the disappointment on CJ’s face, I interjected. “Let’s see what Carol our PT says.  If you want to work, I know Carol will work with you.” With a quick nod and a smug smile, CJ said: “Yes, let’s see.”

In the coming weeks and months that CJ lived in our home, she did work hard with Carol and was an inspiration. She went from not able to transfer at all and needing a Hoyer, to moving with an assist of one. She improved from not able to bare weight on her legs to be able to stand and take a few steps. One afternoon while CJ was working with Carol, another resident commented, “I’m really proud of you.” This resident was not one to talk much and often isolated due to his clinical depression. “You are an inspiration to me.”

CJ was a little embarrassed, “It’s just a small step,” she said as she wiped the perspiration off her lip. “But it was a big step for you,” he said and went back to reading the paper. Both Carol and I looked at each other in a little shock. The brief interaction was profound on so many levels. The tenacity that CJ showed paid off, and it was spreading throughout the house.

As Carol was leaving the house to head to the next, she pulled me aside. “You know CJ and all the progress she is making doesn’t normally happen. Seniors don’t usually get the opportunity to have slow progress without PT being stopped. It is so cool what we get to do every day.” I couldn’t agree more, the opportunity together with the determination was a brilliant success.

Let me know what you think!  Warmly yours ~ Marlena

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