This is not exactly a Christmas story, but very heart warming story about how out of the box thinking took a residents distress and turned it in to joy.

My favorite senior living stories are those where the care team is faced with an impossible resident situation and takes the path of creativity to create an amazing solution.  This is one of those stories. Mr. Smith” is a new participant the social model dementia daycare program at Charlie’s Place in Baton Rouge, LA.

The Story

(as told by Dana Territo, Director of Services)

This morning, “Mrs. Smith” pulled up to Charlie’s Place to drop “Mr. Smith” off for the day. 

For the second time in a week, Mr. Smith refused to get out of the car.  The first time Mrs. Smith got so exasperated that she just went back home with him. I was determined it wasn’t going to happen again. 

Our staff took great measures in redirection and coaxing him to get out of the car.  Our coordinator tried offering him fruit; Our Administrative Assistant tried enticing him with chocolate chip cookies.  Nothing worked. 

He would grab one of our hands and squeeze it so hard that it pinched the rings on our fingers.  His feet wouldn’t move to get out of the car. 

Mrs. Smith finally went inside our offices (chilly day) and left him in the car as we worked to get him moving. I got in the driver’s seat and Mr. Smith immediately clutched my hand. 

I noticed a Florida State “Gator” paper fan in the back seat and, knowing he was a graduate, I picked up the fan and started talking about the “Gators.”  There was some reaction but no movement.

At that point I asked our intern to go get our It’s Never 2 Late® (iN2L®) shuttle and pull up the Gator Fight song on YouTube.  She ran and got the shuttle and tried, but the wireless didn’t work outside.

I remembered from Mr. Smith’s profile that he has been a choir member for over 20 years at a local Baptist Church.  So, I started talking with him about the choir and then I started singing some familiar hymns. 

His mouth started moving.  He started singing. I then asked the intern to get the portable therapy-lite iN2L® and hook it up near the entrance door of Charlie’s Place.  With the help of another staff member, they started playing HYMNS on the iN2L®, in particular, “This is My Story, This is My Song.” 

Instantly Mr. Smith was alert to the song and started singing the words.  I asked him to follow me inside to pray and join others in praise and worship. The staff all joined in, too.  Mrs. Smith came to the door and heard the music and started singing to the lyrics on the screen.  Mr. Smith got out of the car, held my hand, and continued singing all through the entrance and living room of Charlie’s Place.  (I really suspect that he thought he was going to church!) 

The intern put the same song on the stationery iN2l and he stood there for moments, following the lyrics and singing.  We put hymn after hymn on, and soon, the other Charlie’s Place clients were joining in praise and worship.  Mr. Smith was smiling proudly.  I was in tears. Once the music was over, Mr. Smith sat down, and as I had promised him earlier, we pulled up the “Gator” fight song off the YouTube on iN2L and we all helped him cheer for his alma mater.

It might have taken 30-40 minutes of coaxing him to get out of the car, (we have to be so patient with individuals with Alzheimer’s), but the iN2l® System was the perfect solution in attracting him and getting him to stay for the day at Charlie’s Place.

While this is this a great testimonial for It’s Never 2 Late®, perhaps the bigger lesson is how these compassionate care givers used creative out-of-the-box thinking to solve a problem . . . though even that is not quite right, because this was a solution that went way beyond just solving a problem. It became a life affirming experience for both Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

Steve Moran

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