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Jul 1, 2007

Nursing Home News -- July 2007


                                                            By Steve Blay


As I watch my 18 month old son grow up, I am intrigued by his desire to communicate.  At this stage of his life, he spends his entire day walking around pointing out objects for which he knows the word, over and over again.  A typical afternoon involves him walking around the house and exclaiming “DOOR!”, “LIGHT!”, “FAN!” as he points them out to me. 


Even at 18 months, he has learned that communication is an integral part of life.  Whether that communication involves our deepest hopes and dreams, or simply “door, light, and fan,” one things is for certain -- as humans, we desire to communicate with one another. 


As I ponder this desire for communication, my thoughts often turn, with great sadness, to our friends at the nursing home who have lost their ability to speak.  Most often this is because of a stroke, but we have also met residents who are unable to speak because of a spinal injury, multiple sclerosis, or some other condition.  It is safe to say that if you have been visiting the nursing home a long time, you have met one of these residents.  Often they are completely of sound mind, yet they are rarely treated as such, because no one takes the time to figure out what they are trying to say.  I think it is one of the most crippling conditions one can experience.


When I meet residents who cannot speak, they are often depressed and focused inward.  Many of them do not even try to communicate at all any more, because they have been disappointed too many times by trying to say something and not being able to get the words out.  I have found that one of the easiest ways to communicate with them is to ask a lot of yes or no questions, if they can shake their head.  But it takes a long time to build up their trust.  After a while, you might get them to say a word or two.  It helps if you sit down – a non-verbal way of letting them know that they can take their time trying to say what they want to say.  You might be surprised at how from visit to visit their speech may actually become better, as they start to feel safer around you. 


I want to tell the story of a resident named Annias, whom I visited for many years.  Annias, like many stroke victims, had lost his power to speak.  Occasionally a word or two would come out, but that was about it.  Usually our visits would center around me asking a lot of yes or no questions and him shaking his head.  As is true with most older people (actually, all people), Annias wanted to tell me about his life and his accomplishments.  One incident I remember most was a time he was trying to tell me about a certain job he had had when he was a young man.  I managed to figure out that he was a laborer picking some kind of nuts off a tree.  But I could not figure out what kind of tree it was.  Visit after visit I would come up with a new idea and get my hopes up – “Annias, was it a pecan tree? Annias, was it a chestnut tree?”  “NO, NO, NO!” was always his response, to the point that I had finally given up. 


Several months later, just by chance I overheard someone talking about a “Tung Oil Tree”.  I looked it up and apparently there used to a be a tung oil tree farm in North Florida, and the nuts from the tree were used to make paint.  The trees have long since been cut down as cheaper artificial paints were invented.  Not feeling very hopeful, I approached Annias the next day.  “Annias, was it a tung oil tree?”  Perhaps I am not remembering the incident realistically, but I think he jumped out of his wheelchair about three feet in the air.  “YES, YES, YES, YES, YES!!!!” was his response.  Need I say more about the desire to communicate?  I’ll say it again – to be human, is to desire to communicate.  Take away our communication and we cease to feel human any more.


Annias died last year – he really was not a very old man, and I am not sure they ever gave an exact medical reason for it.  I am fairly certain his depression and disconnect from the rest of the world played a role in it.  Annias never did learn to communicate very well, but we had this and several other moments where we truly connected, and they were the highlights of our friendship.




Thursday to Saturday, July 5th - 7th -- Steve will be attending the Florida Health Care Activity Coordinators Association Conference in Orlando.  This promises to be a great opportunity to network with Activity Professionals from around the state.  With copies of the Friends Across the Ages “Starter Manual” in hand, he hopes to spread the word about our program in the hopes of inspiring others to apply some of it elsewhere in Florida.  Wish him luck!


Monday, July 9th, 2:30 – 4PM -- Casino Time! – A monthly event at Parklands Nursing and Rehab -- At 2:30 there will be a bingo game.  Once we are finished with Bingo, we move on to the horse racing game, and blackjack or other card games.  The residents will be playing for “Bingo Bucks” and prizes.


Sunday, July 22nd, 3:30-4:30PM – Patriotic Singing Event – Usually in the month of July we try to have a singing event where we perform some patriotic music and other old American songs from the 20s and 30s.  This event will be held at Gainesville Health Care Center.  Words to all songs will be provided; just bring yourself and any instrument you would like to play.  We will meet in the lobby downstairs – just come in the front doors.  There is no towing on weekends at GHCC. 


Thursday, July 26th, 3-4PM -- Birthday celebration -- Help us wish a happy birthday to all residents of Parklands Nursing and Rehab with birthdays in July. Meet us in the dining room where we will have singing and cake. Volunteers are needed to help gather the residents together, serve the cake, sing, clean up, etc.  Do you play an instrument or have some other talent?  We are always looking for new entertainment for the party – let us know!





Remember, be sure to check above to find out the nursing home at which an event will be held.  Directions to all the nursing homes can be found at:

All events are open to everyone (children are welcome at most events, please inquire). If you've never been to a nursing home before, feel free to reply to this email and let the coordinators (Steve and Allison Blay) know what events you'll be attending, so they will be looking for you. You can also call them at 381-1117. 


This is the July 2007 newsletter of Friends Across the Ages nursing home outreach.
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