John and I talked about how managing a nursing home is a challenge, while being at the same time an honor and a privilege. I shared with John a beautiful story I had read earlier that day about one woman’s experience in the Alzheimer’s center where her mother lived: how her young daughter, experiencing the boredom common to kids visiting grandparents in a care setting, had wandered over to the piano and started playing the few songs she knew. Shortly she was joined by a group of residents who started singing along, over and over, the familiar songs the young girl was playing.
John shared how he played the guitar and enjoyed singing with his residents as well. He and I talked about how music seems to be such a universal, deeply rooted language, and how residents who can’t remember how to perform simple daily care functions could remember every word to a beloved song.
John also shared with me his upcoming weekend plan to hold a barbeque and picnic, and invited me to attend. John says he’ll be participating in all the activities – maybe even wearing a clown suit and sitting in the dunk tank.
As I was driving home I reflected that nursing homes are a lot like hospitals: places we all hope never to have to stay, but places we’re incredibly thankful exist if we need them. I also was thankful that people like John have chosen, as their profession, the challenging and often thankless job of running these centers, and daily put their hearts, souls and talent – from guitar playing and hamburger flipping to managing staff and dreaming up new ways to better serve the community – into their jobs.
Oh, and if you’re in the small, rural town of McMinnville, Oregon, nestled in the heart of Oregon’s great wine country, stop by the Life Care Center this Saturday afternoon for a little heartwarming fun.