Esther (Authentic Rhythm of Life)

chairEsther always seemed to be fiddling with her hands. Wringing them. Picking them. Shaking them. It was incessant.

Esther had suffered a stroke prior to moving into her shared environment. She also suffered from dementia and cardiac issues. Due to these conditions she was plagued by anxiety, which manifested itself through her constant nervous fiddling.

To add to her challenges, she was unfortunately unable to verbalize her thoughts and feelings, as the stroke had claimed her ability to speak, leaving Esther unable to directly tell anyone what was wrong.

Esther’s turning point came thanks to laundry, of all things. One morning Esther noticed a caregiver folding laundry. Immediately she came over and started helping. The caregiver, wanting to allow Esther to relax, told her that she didn’t have to help, which oddly seemed to agitate Esther, who emphatically took the basket and began folding it on her own.

Esther was a mother of 12, and well acquainted with dirty towels. Folding them was a task that created a sense of familiarity, order, and comfort for Esther. Though she couldn’t verbalize this reality, the care staff noticed that when folding, Ester’s hands, once shaky and unstable, soon became coordinated and steady.

In light of this new revelation, Esther was given opportunity to fold laundry whenever she desired. In fact, our caregivers found themselves taking folded linens and towels out of the closet, rumpling them, and putting them into a basket, just so Esther could fold them when she became anxious.

Though it’s unknown what Esther was thinking about while folding those towels, the contented smile she wore and the gospel hymns she whistled give confidence that she was savoring memories of her beloved family with every crease.



Dorothy & Jim (Home Cooked Meals)

Dorothy and Jim have been married for 59 years. Like any good husband of over a half century, Jim has developed a deep appreciation for his wife’s cooking, and Dorothy takes great joy in serving her husband in this capacity to this very day.

food1They will tell you that they don’t take these seemingly routine daily joys for granted anymore.

Prior to moving into their shared environment, Jim went to the doctor for back pain and came out with a diagnosis of stage 3 lung cancer. As the primary caretaker of Dorothy, who has advanced dementia, the brunt of their care now fell to their daughter, who ultimately pursued a shared environment, exhausted and crying about the dire situation of her parents.

Able to take up residence in the same home, Jim underwent chemo and radiation, while Dorothy received the supervision and support she needed. Jim’s health improved, and Dorothy settled into a lifestyle that allowed her to continue the activities that she’d always loved – with a caregiver always around, she could be involved in the cooking of meals without worry of forgetting to turn the burner off or failing to use a hot pad when taking a casserole out of the oven.

Jim’s cancer is currently in remission, and he has regained the 50 pounds that he lost during treatment. When asked what he likes best about his living situation, he’ll tell you it’s the food, but their daughter believes that’s probably because his wife Dorothy still has a hand in preparing it.



Edith (Customized Activities)

Edith had the heart of a mother. An expert in the areas of cooking and gardening, she loved nothing more than not only performing those tasks for the enjoyment of others, but also mentoring them on the artistry involved.

plantingSadly, Edith became unsafe in her beautiful senior apartment and was facing nursing home placement. She was adamant in her refusal of placement because she knew that her normal daily activities, the very things that brought richness and depth to her experience, would be taken away.

Upon moving into her shared environment, Edith quickly assumed the role of house mother. To her delight she established deep connections with the care staff as she shared generations-old recipes (being sure to insist on proper preparation, of course) and retained the joy of providing meals for an appreciative audience.

Her gardening also flourished, as the house jointly cultivated tomatoes and peppers with lessons on canning soon to follow.

Though someone walking past Edith’s garden may see nothing more than some tomatoes and peppers, to her it was an inheritance of the richest kind and a source of meaning in her life, forever planted in the hearts of the caregivers she loved.


Winifred (Cooperative Family)

Winifred’s niece called about a shared environment after she found her wandering the city in her bathrobe, snow shovel in hand, helping herself to donuts directly out of the grocery store display case.

Winifred’s personality was rather difficult. She was typically abrupt and curt in her interactions with the others and seemed to prefer to keep to herself. What from the outside seemed abrupt, however, was merely a communication style to which she had grown accustomed throughout her career – Winifred had served our country for decades as a nurse in the Army.

A breakthrough moment occurred for Winifred as the health of one of her housemates was declining, and she began receiving hospice care. While her housemate was in visible discomfort, Winifred calmly sat down in the room of her housemate, and in her typical abrupt tone said “Hey! Hey!” It was then, however, that a new, consoling tone emerged as Winifred gently caressed her hand, and softly reassured her: “Everything is going to be ok.”

photosWinifred’s compassionate spirit, previously hidden under a rough exterior, was finally visible and became the catalyst for a deep connection between Winifred and the family of her housemate. This seemingly small gesture meant volumes to her housemate and their family and offered a sense of solidarity and comfort during a difficult time.

Indeed it is true that sometimes the little things are the most important.





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