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It’s a Hard Rock Life

5 Jun

I found an old notebook from my first couple years as an activity director, where I would jot down one-liners, memorable moments, or reflections from my work experience.  Let’s just say that I was laughing for the majority of the evening after finding this gem, especially as I read one-liners from my most favorite male resident of all time.  His name was Tony, and he was a dirty old New Yorker with a heart of gold.  Imagine his delight when a 23-year old girl took over as the activity coordinator for his nursing care unit.  His wife lived one floor down in assisted living, but this didn’t stop him from offering me a ride on his lap every time we walked down the hall together.  Luckily, his wife had a bit of dementia and found it quite amusing as well.  Just to be clear, as tired as I was some days, I never accepted.

One of my favorite Tony-isms occurred during a game of bingo.  He was always making the ladies blush with his compliments and winks, but he really outdid himself on this particular occasion.  A daughter of a resident was visiting and standing beside her mom to assist her with bingo.  I noticed that Tony kept looking at the daughter’s Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt and then back at me with raised eyebrows.  He then proceeded to put his hands in the air toward the woman, while turning them like doorknobs, and said, “Hard as Rocks, eh? Prove it to me.”

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It reminded me a lot of the “Tune in Tokyo” scene from Girls Just Want to Have Fun.

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Por favor?

24 May

We have a resident who is notorious for her terrible hearing and she’s the first to admit it.  On top of her hearing impairment, she often misconstrues what she is being told by assuming the person is saying what she thinks they might say, which is rarely the case.  For example:

Resident: “Do you think you could pick me up some floss the next time you go the store?”

Jaclyn: “Yes, but I probably won’t be going to the store until Friday.”

Resident: “So what you’re saying is that I have to wait for the van driver to take me to the store next week to pick up my own floss?”

It happens on a daily basis.  But this resident always finds a way to make me laugh without even trying.  I overheard a conversation in the hallway yesterday morning between this resident and a housekeeper whose English is somewhat limited. The resident went on a long tangent that sounded something like this: “I spilled cranberry juice on the floor of my room and it’s all sticky, and the maintenance man told me that I shouldn’t have food or drink in my room, and I don’t know what to do about the juice on my floor, but do you think you could mop it up?”  This was followed by three seconds of silence and I found myself imagining the housekeeper’s puzzled face when I heard a quiet “Por favor?” from the resident. Yes, that’ll do it.

She then called into my office from the doorway as she always does: “HELLO? IS ANYONE FROM ACTIVITIES IN THERE?” I quickly yelled, “YES, COME ON IN!” and she says to herself, “I guess nobody’s home….”, and this is when I scoot out from my desk and wave my hand at her to come into the office.  Every. single. time.  This was our conversation yesterday:

Jaclyn: “What can I do for you?”

Resident: “I am working on a project that would require some real adult scissors and glue.”

Jaclyn: “Sounds good.  I’d be happy to let you borrow some real adult scissors and glue.”

Resident: “Thank you.”

Jaclyn: “Do you need the scissors and glue right now?”

Resident: “No, I’ll be here all day.”

Jaclyn: “Okay, I’ll see you later then.”

(She wheels back in 30 seconds later)

Resident: “Would it be okay for me to use the scissors right now?”

And so the story goes…

TACOS!

10 May

mexToday, I introduce you to Ethel.  HIPAA, before you get your panties in a bunch, I assure you that’s not her real name.  Ethel is a one-of-a-kind resident.  She is vibrant, animated, stylish, the life of the party, and has the short term memory of a candy bar.  I love her.  I love walking by her and hearing her say, “Ooh honey, what a beautiful necklace”, and then walking back by her 20 seconds later and hearing, “Ooh honey, what a beautiful necklace”.  She will make anyone’s day.  I love that she spends the day in pink pajamas with perfectly applied makeup and a pair of beautiful purple earrings dangling from her ears.  She is quite the fashionista.  I love that she knows all the lyrics to every Spanish song ever written and calls out “Ay ay!” between verses.  Needless to say, Ethel adds a lot of entertainment to our little community.

Our music therapist led a session yesterday with a “Fiesta” theme.  Considering our population is predominantly Hispanic, this really was quite the fiesta!  Especially for Ethel, who loves to sing and dance.  In between songs, our music therapist likes to get the residents talking and reminiscing, which is always therapeutic for them and fun for us.  She started off by asking the residents what comes to mind when they think of Mexico.  Right off the bat:  “Tacos!”, “Enchiladas!”, “Cerveza!”, “Tamales!”, “Tequila!”, “Burritos!”… yes, I heart Mexico. We all laughed and the music therapist tried to get them to think past the food and drink of the culture.  This is how the session went:

Music Therapist: “What country does Mexico border?”

Ethel: “TAMALES!”

Music Therapist: “What separates the United States from Mexico?”

Ethel: “TACOS!”

Music Therapist: “What is the weather like in Mexico?”

Ethel: “ENCHILADAS!”

Music Therapist: “What do people often have at birthday parties in Mexico ?”

Ethel: “TAMALES!”

The other residents helped her out and would chime in with the correct answers, but Ethel never got off the food kick.  She shouted out each answer with such energy and conviction.  It was one of the best music therapy sessions I’ve ever attended.

And little does Ethel know, tacos actually bring the U.S. and Mexico together.

Hello, hello again. Shaboom, shaboom.

25 Mar

I miss writing.  I was re-reading a few older posts from “All the Sweetest Winds” and it hit me just how much I miss it.  I suppose it’s normal to go through waves.  I started to feel like my writing was a bit forced… hell, I wrote a blog post about glitter pinecones.  Spell-check is trying to tell me that pinecone isn’t one word… since when?  I can’t promise that I won’t write about nonsensical, insignificant things once in a while, but I also want to get back to writing about stuff that matters.  Stories about my residents.  Moments that made me laugh so hard I cried.  Events that broke my heart.  And so on.  Perhaps I’ve been a tad more emotional these past six months because I had grown accustomed to processing significant life events through my writing.  Or maybe I’m just emotional.  I’ll let my family be the judge of that.  Well, maybe not, since they still look back fondly on the days of standing at my bedroom door as I sat looking in the mirror and crying while furiously writing in my Lisa Frank diary and talking out my problems.  If nothing else, at least I can claim to be a multi-tasker.  And a 5th grade drama queen.

On a side note, I have a new role model.  She is in her nineties, wears a big fake flower in her hair every single day, looks for her “missing teeth” on a weekly basis, and busts a move whenever she gets the chance.  We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with green “beer” (O’Douls) and Irish tunes last week, and it’s characteristic of her to believe that she is consuming actual alcohol during our occasional happy hours.  Before we knew it, she had downed 2 green “beers” and was throwing her head back while shouting, “I just want to DANCE!”

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Me too, friend, me too.

When the Dog Bites

4 Dec

This week started off a tad bit rocky.  Yesterday, a friend at work told me that I looked stressed.  I reminded him that it was December, and that I am an Activities Director.  Seriously, it looks like Santa threw up in my office.  It’s covered in glitter, garland, candy, plastic crates, and all kinds of Christmas paraphernalia.  I was trying to manage decorating the building, putting up trees, writing a newsletter, scheduling performers for our holiday party, and facilitating group activities, all while trying not to daydream about running away to a deserted island with a good book, a margarita, and no responsibilities.  It’s easy to get lost in the busyness of the season instead of the excitement of it.  I have always favored this season.  I love love love Christmas.  With the addition of trees, garland, and lights to the rehab center, so much life and color comes along with it.  It makes people feel more at home.

I let myself slow down a little today, making a conscious effort to not let myself get overwhelmed.  It came easy when I heard my residents’ reactions  following the lighting of the Christmas tree that they had adorned with ornaments they made with their own hands.  In that moment, everything was okay.  For them, it was as if they forgot they were living in a health care center.  Instead, they were admiring a beautiful tree surrounded by friends and peers, that maybe in those five minutes, felt more like family.  And for me, I was oblivious to my stresses.  I remembered that the tiresome days were worth it, even if just for those five minutes of pure joy.

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On top of that, the resident Christmas tree sure as heck beats out my tree at home.  See below.  Squint… you might miss it.

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TGIF

26 Oct

The highlights of my work week include:

  • Calling a resident “babe”.  Not a sweet little white-haired female resident in her 90’s.   But a male resident in his 40’s.  “If you don’t feel comfortable talking to the psychologist, ba — AHH, you don’t have to.”  Talk about sending the wrong signal.  I must stop calling Firas “babe”.
  • Carving pumpkins with my residents and having them work hard to preserve the seeds for roasting, only to remember right as they came out of the oven that 80% of the residents are on a mechanical soft diet and wouldn’t be able to enjoy them.  So naturally, I told them they were burnt.  Minutes later, my assistant and I had to have a “meeting” = a pumpkin seed feast in our office.
  • One male resident in his 70’s playing Celine Dion’s “I’m Your Lady” on his iPhone.  On repeat.  For three days.  Even when sitting in the dining room chowing down on a hamburger and fries.  It’s one of those songs that you might blare in your car when you’re all alone and you just need to LET IT OUT.  Not the case with this man.  The best part is staff walking around subconciously singing, ” ‘Cause I’m your laaaaady, and you are my maaaaan” under their breath.  Including me, obviously.

Enjoy your weekend!

Neighborhood Watch

22 Jul

A group of residents were gathered in the Cafe one evening, some coloring, some working on a puzzle, and others simply sitting and chatting.  I always love to see this happen because it makes me think that they do feel that they belong to some sort of community.  There are times where I fear that I sound like a broken record when I repeat the same questions to break the silence – “Where were you born?”, “What kind of music do you like?”, etc etc…  I would much rather prefer the more independent residents initiate conversation between one another that is not so forced.  Apparently, wishes do come true.  The ladies on one end of the table were discussing their nighttime habits; some shared that they liked to have a snack and watch television, while others liked to walk outside or around the building before heading to bed.  One lady, who appears quite “old-school” and modest, announced loudly that her routine includes stripping off all of her clothing and walking around her room before getting into bed.  Quite shocked, my activity assistant quickly made her way over to the other end of the table where a gentleman was working on a puzzle.  Before she was even able to gauge whether or not he had heard the end of the ladies’ conversation, he looked up at her with raised eyebrows and asked, “Where’s her room?”  

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