Thursday, November 27, 2014

Finding Acceptance in an Assisted Living Community

Finding your niche in an assisted living community takes a bit of time, and it also depends on the staff and other residents. To be employed here at Broadway Court Estates, each staff member, including the hard working waiters who serve evening meals ~ most of whom are young folks in high school or college ~ are required to master recognizing each resident by face and name. They have only five days to do so, but it's good a system that draws each of them into the "family" network.

While Ross, one of the maintenance men, was installing our new television and a sound bar, he said,
"My first impression was this assisted living community seemed like a luxury hotel except it has apartments instead of rooms and suites."

That was the description I related to family and friends:
"Visitors sign in and are greeted at the front desk. The richly patterned maroon carpeting in the foyer also mutes sound on the broad curved staircase ascending to the second floor. Its carved banister glistens from ornate chandeliers; a perfect backdrop to cozy armchairs and a sofa flanking a fireplace. Think of a luxury hotel that invites strangers to share intimate conversations."
Within the first month we learned the truth of what Ross had said next:
"But this place felt different. And it is. The residents and staff are like one big extended family. Everyone becomes special in their own way."
We had expected to make friends; we'd always played games ~dice, board and card games. We'd noted with pleasure the jigsaw puzzles in the game room, plus shuffle board and billiards. Wii bowling, which we have yet to play, was offered, too. Two rooms with exercise equipment, an indoor pool, sit and be fit, and other physical fitness programs, mall walking, and scheduled outings bring residents together.

 Nevertheless, we had no concept of what it would be like to be greeted by name whenever we left our apartment. We were unprepared emotionally, and hadn't anticipated feeling like part of a family before the first month passed.

However, it didn't take long to notice the sincerity of Ross' words. It's impossible to remain a stranger for long here. Even the most shy and reticent are enfolded in a quiet, unobtrusive way.

How does it happen? In uncountable ways.

One morning, at the self-service breakfast which takes place from 6 a.m. - 11 a.m. in the 50s café in this ALC, the lady seated next to me said, "I stopped to say hello to a woman sitting by the fireplace in the foyer yesterday and when I asked how long she'd been here she replied, "Two days, And I hate it!"

"Oh, dear, that's awful," I told her. "Come along, dear. Let's just go into the Cafe and have a cup of tea or coffee and you tell me all about it." The two stayed in the Cafe through lunch hour, and by the time they parted the newcomer felt much better.
"It got me to thinking," my breakfast companion said, "Maybe I should always say hello to a stranger. Maybe they need a cheery word. Maybe they're as frightened and worried as I was when I first came here to live."
Her words were a testament to how residents in an assisted living community can come to feel like a big, extended family; each member as uniquely special as those in a large clan.

As the anniversary of our second month approached, we felt close bonds with those around us. When we share a table at a Pub Night, an afternoon event where each week a different musician entertains while staff members serve drinks and snacks, sharing the experience spins webs that link each attendant.

October featured the annual Bazaar where those who do crafts raise funds for the good of the residents and the community, and at the rousing good-fun Halloween party this year the largest number of residents so far was costumed.

November hosted a Veterans Memorial program to honor the more than two dozen men and women veterans among the residents.

The most recent social and "give back to the community" event that brought nearly everyone together was the annual "Tom's Turkey Drive."

Tom Sherry, a local TV weatherman and celebrity noted for his efforts to bring together businesses and area residents to provide quality ingredients to families in need for their Thanksgiving Dinner each year. His 2014 goal was meeting the needs of 11,000 families.

The ALC owners, staff and residents helped meet that goal. It was not only a gala event, in addition to residents purchasing Thanksgiving meals for needy families in the region, a check for $1,000 was presented. Thanksgiving Day the residents of this ALC gave special thanks for the privilege of helping others.


No comments:

Post a Comment