Friday, December 24, 2010

Nursing Homes

One day, many of us might end up in one. When we can no longer take care of ourselves and it becomes a burden for our children to. So, with something so important, why is there no rating systems in place for one like their is for a good restaurant....or a good motel? After a recent visit to two of our local more veteran options, I am left with the hope that my children will put deep thought into which one that I am left at if I am not able to take care of myself in my later years.

Zin, Red, and I went to visit a couple of the Band of Brothers who have been recently placed in such homes by the VA for various reasons. Harmony House and Pilot Butte. We all came away with similar thoughts afterwards so I went online to see if either one had ratings. What I found was interesting. Their seemed to be two types of ratings. One was like you would find a mortgage company online. That is really not a rating but an ability for a particular home to grab you before another other words, a money thing. The other seemed to be a rating based upon either a health inspection or a formula based upon how many staff their was to how many people interned.

One cannot find ratings based upon how well the customer is treated. I know that it is important that the nursing aspect is there but of equal or even more important, is how well the customer is treated and how friendly or how loving is the staff.

If you were looking at that health rating, Pilot Butte was given four stars to Harmony House's three. But, it was in the other aspect that I saw the seemingly huge difference.

Both of them lacked for creature comforts. A sterile, hospital like atmosphere in the rooms with cheap bedding on the beds and small TVs. At least in Harmony, each bed had one but I wondered how that went if their were two guys in a room with hearing problems. Would the man with the loudest TV win? In Pilot Butte, their seemed to be a very small TV in each room.

The huge difference that I witnessed from our visit was the difference in staff and atmosphere. We walked into Harmony House first. The first thing we noticed was staff interacting with people along with families visiting their loved ones. We were greeted by a very friendly female voice who quickly realized who we were from our Band of Brothers jackets.

"Hi!", she greeted us with a smile, "He is just to the left down three doors and is waiting for you guys. We heard you were going to come by and visit with him." I looked around and saw staff members with smiles on their faces interacting with seniors, family, and other staff members. They seemed to be happy which in turn flows down to make the families and seniors happier.

We were chatting with our friend, Len, when a very pretty lady walked in the door. "Who is our new resident?", she cooed. Now, I swear I heard Red say that he wished he was so I piped up, saying, "Here he is" as I pointed to Red, "And the nurse says that he is suppose to be in bed, but we cannot get him to go there.". With a smile on her face, she began to talk with Red who quickly informed her that he was not the patient to the laughs of Len, Red, and myself.

The lady turned out to be the event coordinator for the house and it certainly looked like they had picked the right person. She seemed to glow with friendliness. As we left, I took an even more in depth look around wondering what it was like for the seniors there. How happy were they? This is the end of their life. How well are we treating them? If my visuals were right, this home seemed to be right up on the hospitality line.

So, then we went to Pilot Butte. Now, they are the one that has the higher health rating and based upon that, would be one that many would chose first.

So, I made it a point to look for the other things. We were greeted by what seemed to be the director who made his office by the door as a sort of sentry. There was no smiling face and we were not allowed to pass without him checking to see if our friend, Dale, was actually in his room. He directed one of his staff to lead us to the room and as I walked to Dale's room, I looked around. The staff seemed to be in business first mode. Nurses seemed to be buzzing around doing their job but there was a very large difference in the hospitality angle. I saw few smiling faces . I saw nurses working hard doing their job but very little interaction. I saw seniors sitting in their rooms staring at walls.

Now, there is no doubt in my mind that the Pilot Butte center was doing the best nursing part of the job. But, in my humble opinion, Harmony House was far better in the well being aspect. And is that not of equal or more importance?

Maybe someone needs to set up a site for senior homes where someone goes out to the various ones and rates them for the important things. Comfort, cheeriness, friendliness, and mind interactions.

And equally important, when we make these hard decisions for our loved ones, those things should be in the forefront of our decisions.

This holiday season, take the time to visit one of these seniors who are in one of the various homes in our community. Make it a point to make that time a merry happy time. Remember, you might be there yourself one day.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


The past Thanksgiving was very successful with around 470 seniors served in less than five hours. It was, however, a bit too successful and shortly afterwards, I began writing down ideas for how to make it better next year. The first thing that I wrote was that we needed to focus more next year reducing the hourly numbers so that we can better serve the seniors. I worried as I looked at my notes knowing that this meant that some seniors would be left out.

As I thought about that dilemma, I opened my email and was surprised by an email from the director of the Central Oregon Council on Aging. She asked me if I would be interested in possibly helping out her group in the future. It was like a light bulb in my head.

We set up a time to meet and sat down at the counter the other day. I shared with her my desire to help out as many seniors as we possibly could next year and my thoughts regarding our limitations in our present building. Between us we began to formulate a plan moving the existing dinner to the Bend Senior Center and even using Meals on Wheels to expand the delivery.

Our desire is to turn the Senior Center into a sort of resort for the day for Seniors who are without family and to continue to reach out to other seniors who for whatever reason cannot get out and enjoy our company.

She talked of the possibility of getting a big screen TV and setting it up in the lounge room for ones who wanted to just get together and watch the football games while they munched on food or drank coffee.

I know that there will be barriers to jump but I can just see it in my head and it excites me. Imagine a place where seniors who for whatever reason are away from others in their family creating one large family to hang out with and enjoy each others company.

They are greeted as family when they walk in the door. Can eat a casual meal in the dining room while serenaded by local singers. Or play pool in the rec room Or read a book in the library Or watch a football game in the lounge with other fans. All in one large house with one giant family.

Or a senior who cannot get out of his house having a friendly face meet him at his own doorstep with a warm meal and a smile. Maybe even stop in for a bit and watch the game with them or just sit with them while they eat.

This event started the first year that we moved into our new building. We are on our sixth year. The first year, we served around 250 or so. This year, 470. It all began as an extension of something Jimmy, our kitchen manager, did at his old restaurant in California years ago. It has become our biggest outreach focus of the year.

I will try to keep you abreast of developments but needless to say, it has my mind a bit occupied. And I have to wait nearly a year to hopefully see our excited ideas come to fruition.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mrs Collister

I haven't been posting much lately and there has been good reason.....I am sleeping at night. Most of my posts come at this time because frankly, I am just too busy to post during the day. But, tonight I awoke with an experience in my head that stayed with me so I am up writing it down so that I can go back to sleep.

Trin and I went to a basketball game over in Eugene on Thursday. One of the last games in Mac court. I will miss that place. We parked in our usual spot and walked through the cemetery to the court. That is just one of the experiences that I will always remember. Since I was a youth, I have always walked through that cemetery on my way to the games. It is like its own part of the experience.

The game was great. The young team seemed to take on the persona of their new coach who seemed to orchestrate them from the sidelines. They were down by 20 at the half but chipped away all of the second half only to lose by 3. But, it was to the number 8 team in the nation so we all left feeling pretty good about them.

The next morning, we drove up to Albany. I dropped Trin off at the mall and drove to a small church where they were having the service for Frances Collister. I grew up with some of her daughters and met one of the daughters (Diana) husbands, Mark Purkey this last summer along with her two youngest sons. I enjoyed their company one of the days of the old Gilchrist reunion and a few days later, they all stopped into the diner and brought Mrs. Collister with them.

I remember her from my youth as being a friendly caring person but I did not really know her that well. I asked my mom about her and she said she did not know her that well as they were in different circles. I knew that they both were a part of the Christian Women's Association and I mused how I never realized that the women had circles. It makes sense, however, as things just don't change.

I was immediately taken by her when she came in to see me. Her spirit shown like few I have seen before. I knew that she had been struggling with cancer but she did not show any signs of it. A friendly, loving, caring nature seemed to emanate from her. The one real person to person experience of our lives had left a strong impression on me.

So, I drove the few miles north to support her family and ended up being filled from the experience. I listened to stories of her and photos of her life and as I sat in my spot over in the back of the room felt so honored to be able to share this experience. One told of her childhood where she was given a dime and bought flower seeds with it thus starting her love for flowers. In my head, the song 'Where have all the flowers gone' seemed to germinate from the story.

As I listened, I remembered my visit with her when she came in to the diner with her family and the stories only seemed to amplify the feeling that I had about her then. I only wished that I could have known her better.

Your life here on earth becomes your legacy for the future. Mrs. Collister left a very profound legacy. One that stays with me in the middle of the night. What will my life show of me when I am gone? What will they remember of me?

What will your legacy be?