This a story about creating memories for residents and their family. It asks the question what are you doing to create memories?
The news reports of the anniversary of D Day a couple of weeks ago brought back some personal memories. Some 25 years ago I helped to open the Assisted Living unit at Air Force Village West in Riverside, California. A military “brat” myself, I loved the experience, especially the almost daily discovery of long-lost compatriots who had served together years before. One of my residents in the ALU had served in WWII as an enlisted man and had come home to build a very successful business, then run by his son. My resident was fairly independent, but had significant heart problems. One day the son came into my office and laid an invitation on my desk. “I don’t know what to do about this,” he said. “My dad’s unit is having a reunion in Paris this D Day anniversary and he wants to go. I’m terrified that he will die there or on the way.” I looked across the desk at him and replied, “So, he dies in Paris instead of here? How is that a problem?” They flew to Paris on the Concorde, stayed at the luxurious George V hotel and completely enjoyed the reunion. The son later told me that it was the best decision he had ever made. This last weekend we were privileged to host a reunion between my husband’s mother, who turned 81 on June 1, and her closest cousin Phyllis, who turned 80 on June 6. This reunion was possible because Phyllis’s son and his wife went to the trouble to bring her across the country for her 80th birthday. The two cousins spent the afternoon sharing photos and memories. We saw them together in their 8th grade graduation photo and many other special moments with people mostly now gone. A friend of ours, whose father was best man at my mother-in-law’s wedding, came by to share memories. As we all said goodbye the unspoken, bittersweet message was that these two women would almost certainly never see each other again, at least not in this life. But the day was a wonderful, unique reunion to be treasured and valued. As a side benefit, my husband and I met some cousins who, we found, share many interests and experiences with us. How can we translate that into our work with residents?
- Be bold! Call a family night just that: “Be Bold. What would you do with your loved one if nothing else mattered?”
- Help facilitate reunions. Host them if you can.
- Make plans for outings residents and their families would not even think of.
- Organize Skype visits with geographically distant relatives and friends, with shared photo albums.
What are you doing to facilitate these kinds of experiences?