Remembering residents helps to make each day more powerful

I admire people who take pictures and have them framed beautifully throughout their homes. I love the visual stories they tell and their homes seem warm and welcoming. Perhaps part of the reason I love this is because I’m so woefully inadequate at displaying all of our family memories. I still have my wedding photos in a box after nearly 17 years of marriage. My dream of transforming myself into a photographic Martha Stewart may be a good one, but it hasn’t happened yet so I’m beginning to think I may have to abandon that fantasy.

Mental Snapshots

There is one thing I’m pretty good at collecting and nurturing though, and those are the mental snapshots that I’ve taken over the years as I’ve worked with residents and their families. From the day I began working in senior living almost 14 years ago I have a copious number of  ”snapshots” that I’ve kept dusted and well-framed in a spot in my mind for easy access for reminiscing, remembering,and drawing from regularly. These are much more precious to me than a tangible frame because they are imprinted upon my heart, woven inextricably into the fabric of who I am, and catalysts for continued work in championing the quality of life for seniors. They  are pictures; literal moments in time when I was able to freeze particular instants in my mind and heart to keep them as a sweet and powerful reminder of why  I’m in this industry; and on a larger scale, to serve as source of wisdom as I travel through this life that is often fraught with both beauty and pain. The snapshots vary. Harry, ravaged by Huntington’s disease with his powerful, nonverbal communication to me as I struggled to put on his TED hose. Ed weeping audibly as I read “The Greatest Generation” to him and a group of other residents. Gene taking a paintbrush in his hand, normally wracked with Parkinsonian tremors, and seeing the tremors stop as he put it on the canvas. Bill smiling from ear-to-ear when I cheered him on as he walked with assistance past my office each day. And, just a few days ago, when our 100 year-old resident approached me after his party and said “thank you- this is the best day of my life and I will never forget  it.” The catalog of those internal snapshots is long,and I’m reminded of them more than I can effectively convey . Each time I access them they remind me that often what I am so passionate about, the drive I have for senior care, is often  the very thing that has changed me; made me more mindful of this fragile life, of loving those closest to me with all my might,and not missing those important moments that pass by so quickly.

The Best Job in the World

As professionals who work in the senior living community we are, in my opinion, some of the most blessed. We get to glean wisdom from those who have gone before us and made mistakes, had careers, raised their children and, in these latter years, given up much of what they worked to acquire as they look to the end of their lives. They show us what is really important, how not to have regrets, and how to finish our race well. I encourage you as you go about your business this week, and in the successive time to come, to stop, and take some mental snapshots as you come upon those sweet moments. It may be when your child holds your hand, your spouse looks at you with at special gaze of love, or a resident expresses a heartfelt sentiment.  Then make a conscious effort to frame them in the annals of your heart so you can access when you need to be reminded of the preciousness of this life.

This article was first published at the authors website Time Flys 

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