In February 2009, my mother needed to enter a long-term care facility. My own career as a social worker and an RN had me work in a retirement community in Mt. Airy, Philadelphia for 25 years. It did not make decision any easier.
I remember attending symposiums years ago on methods to improve long-term care for residents, such as adding pets and plants. The concept of a facility being a "home" was abandoned, because the elderly were leaving their true home to enter a facility.
We chose Mahoning Valley Nursing and Rehab Center for mom. I had professional as well as personal contact with the facility and it was positive. However, I was not prepared for mom's experience there.
Mom had aphasia from a stroke. I felt bad that she could not make her wishes known. As helpful and nice as the staff was, she could not thank them. I noticed after about a month that mom developed her smile. Her initial adjustment was replaced by her recognition of the staff members; she returned their greetings with a large smile!
Her frequent nurse, Valarie Bonner, LPN, got a special smile from mom, as she was so kind and communicated mom's progress or lack there of with me. The CNAs were the kindest, and mom smiled widely and often to them. One aide, "Susie," helped mom get into a rocking chair last winter so mom could enjoy what once was a favorite pastime. One housekeeper earned her smile by calling mom "Susie Snowflake." She did not know that mom taught me that song when she pleated my pigtails in the second grade! What wonderful memories that brought back.
The many activities that I escorted mom to were highlighted by Nancy and her husband, who brought gospel music to the residents. Mom loved those hymns very much.
The experience there clarifies the biblical verse Romans 8: 31-35: "Who would separate us from Christ? Will hardship or distress? Nothing will be able to separate us from Christ."
Mom had this love through the staff's commitment. Mother Teresa stated "Do small things with great love." The staff at Mahoning Valley does that well.
Mom died on June 4 at the home, in the care of the hospice up to the end. She received the best care. I will be a better nurse since my experience there. Long term care facilities can be "home" by the love and care demonstrated by the staff within.
I express my thanks to the home and its staff, Arcadia Hospice, Pastor Maryane Keiter and the Rev. Michael Netzik for their loving care and prayers for my mom, Susan Fisher.