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Sun Feb 3, 2013, 10:47 AM

Meet Sergio...

My father is in a transitional care facility, following serious surgery for a subdural hematoma. I spent the past week in California, giving my brother and sister a break and driving my mother back and forth. At one point, both my mother and father had dropped off to sleep, so I left the room to walk the halls of the facility. Like most transitional care facilities, it is also a nursing home, so it's full of permanent residents.

As I walked down the hall, a man in his late 80s was sitting in the hallway in his wheelchair. He was a man of Mexican heritage, which you could tell by the white cowboy hat he was wearing and his clothing. That was the dress-up clothing I remembered from the 50s and 60s that was universally worn on special occasions by people who had come from Mexico to work on the citrus farms. I figured he was one of the long-time farmworker residents of the small town in California where I grew up. As I walked by, we exchanged solid head nods in acknowledgment of each other.

When I returned down the same hallway, I decided to stop for a moment and chat with him. My Spanish isn't terrific, but is adequate for casual conversation. I greeted him with a how are you today in Spanish. He responded with a "so-so" comment in Spanish. So, I knelt down and had a conversation with him. He has no local relatives, so doesn't get many visitors, he told me. I asked him how long he had lived in that town, and he told me his story of coming to the US in the late 1940s as a migrant farm worker, eventually becoming a citizen.

What struck me most was that even though he did not get regular visitors, he dressed each day in that formal way, and sat in the hall, quietly acknowledging those who passed by. We finished our conversation and I returned to my father's room. There was an RN in there, doing something, and she said that she had noticed me talking to Sergio. I had not asked him his name, nor given him mine. We had chatted as though we knew each other.

She said that Sergio especially enjoyed it when someone stopped to talk to him, but that almost nobody ever did. She thanked me for taking the time to do so, and said he was a real favorite with the staff there. He is apparently always dressed that way and never fails to greet the staff in his very polite and dignified formal way.

I was struck by this and by the uniqueness of this old gentleman who spends his days as a resident in a nursing home greeting people who pass by, even though he has no family living in that town any longer. I learned something from my encounter with him, and began greeting each resident I encountered there with a "Hello" and a smile. Every last person responded with a smile in return and a greeting. Such a simple thing, and yet such an important thing to people living in that situation.

So, if you have occasion to visit a nursing home for any reason, please take the time to say hello to everyone you see who is living there. If you have time, stop and chat briefly with them. It may be the only time someone does that. Maybe you'll meet Sergio, a true old-school Mexican gentleman, or someone like him.

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Arrow 40 replies Author Time Post
Reply Meet Sergio... (Original post)
MineralMan Feb 2013 OP
dixiegrrrrl Feb 2013 #1
MineralMan Feb 2013 #2
HappyMe Feb 2013 #3
MineralMan Feb 2013 #4
HappyMe Feb 2013 #5
MineralMan Feb 2013 #7
awoke_in_2003 Feb 2013 #22
MineralMan Feb 2013 #24
awoke_in_2003 Feb 2013 #27
MineralMan Feb 2013 #28
awoke_in_2003 Feb 2013 #30
lunasun Feb 2013 #6
LittleGirl Feb 2013 #8
MineralMan Feb 2013 #9
LittleGirl Feb 2013 #14
MineralMan Feb 2013 #16
Flaxbee Feb 2013 #10
MineralMan Feb 2013 #12
The Wizard Feb 2013 #11
MineralMan Feb 2013 #13
glinda Feb 2013 #15
MineralMan Feb 2013 #17
glinda Feb 2013 #39
tomp Feb 2013 #18
dixiegrrrrl Feb 2013 #19
MineralMan Feb 2013 #20
DreamGypsy Feb 2013 #34
Moostache Feb 2013 #21
MineralMan Feb 2013 #23
lucca18 Feb 2013 #25
MineralMan Feb 2013 #26
dballance Feb 2013 #29
mecherosegarden Feb 2013 #31
MineralMan Feb 2013 #33
Scruffy Rumbler Feb 2013 #32
MineralMan Feb 2013 #35
Scruffy Rumbler Feb 2013 #37
MineralMan Feb 2013 #38
slackmaster Feb 2013 #36
tavalon Feb 2013 #40

Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 10:53 AM

1. What a lovely sentiment.

Thank you for sharing this.

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #1)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 10:54 AM

2. Thank you. I learned something important from Sergio.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 10:59 AM

3. That's so nice.



People forget that it doesn't take up a lot of time to be kind to others.

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Response to HappyMe (Reply #3)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 11:05 AM

4. A lot of people living in nursing homes rarely

have visitors, sadly. Even though my concern was for my father's recovery, which is going very well, I had time to greet people. I just had not thought about it until my encounter with Sergio.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #4)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 11:09 AM

5. I'm glad that your dad

is recovering. I'll keep him in my thoughts.

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Response to HappyMe (Reply #5)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 11:14 AM

7. Thanks for thinking of my father.

He and my mother are both 88. I know I won't have them around for too many more years. My wife and I moved to Minnesota to look after her parents, who are about the same age. Her father died a few years ago. Since both my brother and sister still live in the same town as my parents, and none of my wife's siblings are in Minnesota, we made the decision to move here. We must care for our aging parents, since they cared for us when we were children. It's a responsibility that cannot be ignored. Sadly, I can't be there for mine as much as I'd like, but my siblings are dedicated and available to them. We do the same for my wife's mother.

Sadly, a lot of elders end up alone and unvisited when they must live in a care facility.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #4)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 12:25 PM

22. And your dad would be happy you did this. nt

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Response to awoke_in_2003 (Reply #22)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 12:27 PM

24. He would, indeed.

He'd have done exactly the same thing. Actually, he probably knows Sergio. He's lived in that small town since the 40s.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #24)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 12:37 PM

27. My wife used to work...

in a nursing home- she can attest to the lack of visitation by family. One particular lady fell in love with me. She would tell my wife to "take care of that man, honey, or I will".

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Response to awoke_in_2003 (Reply #27)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 12:38 PM

28. I like that story.

Thanks.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #28)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 12:46 PM

30. Had to go back and correct spelling. nt

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Response to HappyMe (Reply #3)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 11:10 AM

6. +1

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 11:37 AM

8. Kudos to you.

My Mother lives in a multi-care facility where some live independently (like her) some are in assisted living and some in the nursing wing. She has made friends with all of the residents just like you did by just saying hello and smiling. It is a wonderful thing to see my Mother, who lived alone as a widow for over a decade, come out of her depression and shell (so to speak) and make such lovely friends there. She's 80 and I have never seen her happier. People need people.

Peace to you.

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Response to LittleGirl (Reply #8)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 11:49 AM

9. Absolutely. People do need people.

Give your mother my best wishes.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #9)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 12:06 PM

14. Thanks, I will.

She's had a bad week. They found another fracture in her pelvis bone and she's living on pain relievers lately. Her boyfriend, yep, she has a boyfriend, has been helping her with getting around. They are so cute.

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Response to LittleGirl (Reply #14)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 12:09 PM

16. I hope she feels better soon.

Nursing home romances are great!

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 12:03 PM

10. My mom has been in assisted living for almost 14 years ...

and it is definitely important to talk to her neighbors ... when I visit (which isn't often as I should; she lives across the country from me) we always have lunch or dinner out with the group in the main dining area... just for conversation.

I have never understood why the elderly in this country are so ignored. Granted, it isn't every day that most people get to a nursing home or assisted living facility, but that also says something about our society.

Anyway - were you in SoCal? My dad was raised on a citrus farm in Rialto (when it was covered in orange groves) in the 30s and 40s; I grew up not too far from there.

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Response to Flaxbee (Reply #10)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 12:05 PM

12. Yes. In Ventura County, just north of LA.

My parents own a small citrus and avocado farm.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 12:04 PM

11. When my mom was in a nursing home

I'd go to visit about three times a week and while there do an impromptu comedy act for her and the other patients. She told me they'd always ask when I was going to be back.
The staff would look horrified or stunned when I started with the jokes, but the patients loved it. Just because someone is old doesn't mean they can't appreciate a good dirty joke, especially the ones about nursing homes.

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Response to The Wizard (Reply #11)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 12:05 PM

13. Anything that makes folks smile is OK,

as far as I'm concerned.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 12:07 PM

15. So true...... in the last year we have had the great honor to meet some wonderful

seniors in homes. One very much like you described also.

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Response to glinda (Reply #15)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 12:10 PM

17. Yes. They may be quiet, but

it's worth talking to anyone you encounter. Everyone has a story. Another person I encountered on this trip is the very elderly wife of the owner of the dairy I worked for delivering milk to people's homes when I was a teenager. That was 50 years ago. When I told her my name, she said that her husband often mentioned me in those days. He was a very good man, and his wife, who I had never met, was very glad to finally meet me. A wonderful coincidence.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #17)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 12:36 AM

39. What a wonderful gift!

We can learn so much for the elderly. They get very lonely and sad in "homes" also. We can only hope when if we get there that someone would take the time to talk to us.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 12:10 PM

18. listen to "hello in There" by John Prine. nt

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Response to tomp (Reply #18)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 12:13 PM

19. Exactly the song that came to mind as I read this!

I have the Baez version.

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Response to tomp (Reply #18)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 12:23 PM

20. Thank you for reminding me of that song.

I had forgotten it, and just went to YouTube to listen to it again. Had to wipe my eyes.

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Response to tomp (Reply #18)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 01:16 PM

34. You know that old trees just grow stronger...

... and old rivers grow wilder every day.

Here's a recent rendition by John, who's grown a little older himself.


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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 12:23 PM

21. Your small kindness was more meaningful than 90% of bankers' CAREERS...

Thank you for sharing that experience. My wife works in geriatric care and she is constantly heartbroken at the circumstances of many of the people in her care. She dedicates herself to making the end of life better for unknown strangers everyday and I could not think of anything more valuable. I could not be more proud

Of course, in keeping with the values of our sick society, performing valuable and meaningful work simply means you get paid less than a scumbag banker or hedge fund manager makes for opening one eye in the morning before "work"...

I wish we lived in a society that rewarded kindness and elevating humanity instead of debasing it and killing it. Its also why I believe John Lennon's "Imagine" is the most beautiful song in the world.

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Response to Moostache (Reply #21)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 12:25 PM

23. Good for your wife! She does a tough job, but

an extremely important one. Tell her thanks for me.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 12:34 PM

25. Thank you MineralMan.

Thank you for your kindness and thoughtfulness.

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Response to lucca18 (Reply #25)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 12:35 PM

26. No thanks are needed.

The smiles of the people I spoke to were more than enough.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 12:42 PM

29. Yea You! Thank You for Taking Time to be Kind to Another Human Being

It's the little things in life like your story that give us pleasure.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 12:57 PM

31. Thank you for sharing this!

I am completing my predoctoral at a homeless shelter . Many of my patients are older adults who are also from Mexico . They don't have any living relatives. It is so sad because they never go out for the holidays and they never get a visit, a phone call, a card. I seen how happy they are when volunteers stop by to "visit" them. I try to eat lunch with them and stop by just to say hi when I don't have a scheduled therapy wit them . I believe that the time I spend with them, out of therapy, is more healing than any of the sessions we have. Life have not been kind to them !

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Response to mecherosegarden (Reply #31)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 01:16 PM

33. Thank you for what you are doing.

I used to volunteer at a homeless shelter where I used to live. I didn't have a lot of direct contact, since I was the cook on one of the cook's days off, but I tried to go around to see how people liked the food. Tough situation for everyone there.

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 01:14 PM

32. Hey MineralMan,

I know what you mean. My mother's parents had a good experience with the nursing home they lived in. Was built on the site of the old poor farm in our area. It still had a few of the old outbuildings on the site. I had lived with them for a time period before they went to the home, my grandfather had Parkinson's and Alzheimer's...double whammy. I moved out of state not to long after that and only had a chance to visit on trips back. My last visit with my grandmother was the night my brother, my uncle and I spent the night holding her as she passed.

My new job requires me visiting several of our area nursing homes. It brings ME great joy every day as I greet the residents as they go about their routines. Their sometimes huge smiles are infectious! While I just moved back a couple years ago to care for my mother, my family has been in this area for several generations. And have met people that knew my parents and grandparents. I try to greet every resident as I move my equipment through the halls. The smiles I receive are the best boost!

What impresses me, is when I ask an employee where such n such a room number is, they have to ask my the residents name because they don't know room numbers, they know the rooms by which resident(s) live in it. i really get a kick when I find a room shared by a husband and wife. It's rare, but it does happen.

May your father recover quickly and be able to transition home quickly...

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Response to Scruffy Rumbler (Reply #32)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 01:24 PM

35. Thanks for what you're doing.

And you're right. The smiles that come out are great. I'm going to give some thought to how I might be able to volunteer in a place like that.

I believe my father will recover fully in about three or four weeks, based on the improvements I saw in the week I spent there. I'd like to see him return home as soon as possible. However, it looks like it may be time for he and my mother to move out of the house at the farm. My sister's looking into assisted living facilities in their town, and my mother thinks it may be time, too, although they love their house and will hate to leave.

It's a difficult time for them, as they become less and less able. My father has always been very active, and was out on his tractor just a couple of weeks ago. My mother, too, is alert and busy. But, both of them are less stable on their feet than they once were, and my father will probably have to finally give up driving now.

We'll see. I like the staff at the transitional care facility he's in. They seem genuinely concerned with the residents there, both permanent and temporary.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #35)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 02:01 PM

37. There has been a fundamental shift is elder care in the last few decades.

Many places have such a wide range in the level of care they provide, from private apartments with minimal "care" to around the clock supervision. You and your parents a lucky to have other family members involved as well.

So much of the change has been to focus on the greatest level of independence for the individual, taking into account their various health concerns, but not making that the focus.

I have a buddy that lives in senior housing. He is very independent. The residents of his high rise are able to care for themselves, some still drive, many have little jobs around the facility. They even have an awesome organic garden run by the residents. They submit their request for new beds and the grounds keepers will help with the "heavy duty" chores, but it is the residents that choose what will be grown, plant, water, maintain and harvest it. They have monthly community dinners, movie night, outings, shopping trips. It is just like high rise apartments I have lived in in the past. About the only difference is a emergency call button in each apartment and staff on duty 24 hours to handle any emergencies that come up. And a greater sense of community then any apartment I lived in before.

Hopefully your father will have an easy time giving up the driving and will realize on his own that it is time. My sister went through that process with my mother when Mom began getting lost in her home town and after running the side of her van along a concrete barrier in a parking lot when she misjudged the distance. They were able to make a humorous situation out of it, but it was the event that made my mother realize she just couldn't drive safely anymore.

In NY, we have a Department of senior living that helps families identify just what kind of housing is required for the family members involved and guide them through the transition process. They helped us qualify our mother for Medicaid, and through this, we have a service coordinator that meets with us monthly. She guides us through all the insurance programs, helps identify new and future needs and how best to meet them. Check with the California Department of Aging. They should be able to help you through this process. It is never too early to get some info on this and find out what options are available for your parents.

Good luck to your family.

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Response to Scruffy Rumbler (Reply #37)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 02:05 PM

38. Thanks for the info!

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 01:25 PM

36. Great post, MineralMan. I often enjoy meeting elderly people with a lot of experience.

 

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Response to MineralMan (Original post)

Mon Feb 4, 2013, 07:11 AM

40. OMG, so true!

I learned at 19 years of age that our elders are far more interesting than 19 year olds. I lived my teenage years with my grandparents and went to church where most of the congregation were even older than my grandparents, but I had brain damage. Not actual brain damage, but the kind that afflicts most teenagers, the self centeredness that doesn't allow for anyone else on the stage. But at 19, my soon to be husband was visiting me at my grandparents' house and he started asking them about being young adults in the depression. I learned that my grandfather spent time train hopping and being a hobo and that later, he and my grandmother made what money they could by flying a biplane in an airshow. Well, my grandfather piloted and my grandmother wing walked. Yes, wing walked! I was astonished and as I was just growing out of my self centeredness, I learned the lesson well.

To this day, I gravitate toward older folks, though, these days they aren't all that much older than me. More often than not, someone 20 years older than me is far more interesting to talk to than someone 20 years younger than me. I know American culture doesn't value age but that is just one of many things that I don't follow American culture on.

As a nurse, I'm aware that we have developmental stages throughout our lives and the most important stage for elderly folks is reviewing their life and finding the overarching meaning. You've just given me a great idea. I've been wanting to do some volunteer work. I do more than enough physical tasks as a nurse, but it would be so cool to go into a nursing home and be a volunteer listener. I'm going to look into this.

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