Who needs to go to school, when we have teachers everywhere???


It was a Monday and yippee, my first day off in a week. The last couple of days had been stressful to say the least. I was eager to receive some sort of answer from a job interview for a maternity leave position, but felt guilty that I even considered leaving my place of employment. I was beginning to realize that working in long-term care was not at all, what I had thought it would be. For the last 10 years I had been an active family member visiting my Mom, but now I was a recreation ‘worker’ in the system.

A new manager had been hired to oversee the recreation department and well, my cohort and I did not see eye to eye with her. Not to mention, she never left her office, other than to criticize both my friend and myself. Our meetings together as a department (yes all 3 of us) seemed to always end in an argument. I stayed quiet as I had more things to worry about, but my cohort, god love her, without fail, would call out our new Manager on her work habits (or lack there of) among other things. At times, it became so comical, that I would just smile, get up and walk away from the meeting and leave the two of them to battle it out. In my opinion at the time, I had more pressing issues to deal with, such as ‘the residents’! Now, if any of the meetings contained solutions to issues we faced, of course I would have stayed, but that never happened.

I could never walk more than 20 feet in the home without a resident reaching out to touch or talk to me. I realized that even though there were many residents in the home, they were lonely and needed attention. I was always run off my feet, but happily so. I rarely took breaks, as I would end up sitting with a resident or two and listening to their stories.

I realized that each resident needed to be heard and needed to feel that their life was not wasted; they needed to be remembered. Each resident had an entire life behind them and needed to tell their story. I learned that intelligence should not be measured by the amount of formal education or by how many letters you have after your name. I was educated daily on the facts of the depression and World War 2. Life experience and wisdom accompanied their age, and there was no schooling that could top that background. I also learned that the residents were inquisitive and they too loved to learn new things. Every day they would ask about MY life, MY dogs, MY house, etc. Some of the residents loved to talk about the latest news stories and movies and would take on the ‘teacher’ role when I asked more questions and became their student.

I also learned a hard and sad fact; there was not enough ‘recreation’ staff in the homes that could be there for every resident. Our group programs were tailored for certain residents. We had trivia for our cognitive residents; spa was tailored towards residents who suffered from dementia; music programs were open to all. Since this home had 3 floors, running around to push residents in their wheelchairs to our programs took a considerable amount of time. One of the floors was on lockdown, which housed mostly residents suffering from dementia and mental illness. If we, the recreation aide, portered them down to our group program, we had to have eyes in the back of our head in order to make sure they didn’t wander off. Since Mom was a pacer, I knew that many of the residents suffering from Alzheimer’s disease could not help themselves and would get up in the middle of program to begin to walk, to where, they had no idea. At that point, the more cognitive residents would become angry. They didn’t understand Alzheimer’s disease and were impatient when we would have to cut a program in half for a few minutes to run after a resident.

Then there were the residents never left their rooms, either by choice or by physical/cognitive challenge. We had to program individually for their needs also. Unfortunately, they never received the full amount of programming as the residents who could and would leave their floors or rooms to attend group programs.

….. to be continued


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