One day this month, I sat in a clinic waiting room reading a magazine while waiting for a Hope & A Future resident who was undergoing a test. After a short time, a clinic staff person approached me and asked, “Did you come with . . .” she paused and I assumed she was running privacy rules through her head. Should she say the patient’s name out loud in the waiting room. I smiled and said, “Yes, I came with Rosemarie.” She smiled and said, “She wants you in the room when the results and recommendations from the test are explained. She said you are her friend and then as if it was secondary, added that you are also her nurse.” I felt my eyes tear up and said, “Thank-you for telling me that.”
I am so grateful for the relationships I have with the people we provide care for at Hope & A Future and I am equally grateful that they feel safe and loved. Moments like this keep me going. Rosemarie has dealt with some difficult health issues in the last year. The swallowing problem came about as a result of the increased weakness that follows prolonged sickness. At the clinic appointment we learned that her speech therapy exercises had successfully cured the problem for now so she no longer has to add thickener to her coffee, water, juice and milk. We were both thrilled and to the surprise of the clinic staff we both exclaimed “Yeah!”, a little too loud!
During her rehab, Rosemarie’s speech therapist taught Hope & A Future staff how to help Rosemarie with exercises. They were designed to strengthen her swallowing muscles, so food and liquids do not drip into her lungs and cause pneumonia when she swallows and to increase the volume of her speech. We had fun with the exercises by making them a group activity! Watch a short video made while doing speech/swallowing exercises by clicking here!
This kind of fun happens when staff enjoy each other and the people they care for! Teamwork at its best! The results are improved quality of life for the entire team.
Another resident expressed his feelings regarding being part of a family of friends in a very unique and surprising way in the past week too. Brad has lived with us for a couple of years now. He and his Mother moved in at about the same time--they had lived together his entire life. To everyone’s joy, Brad has enjoyed life at Hope & A Future from his first day. He took on the roles of house mailman and he makes two trips a day to the chicken coup to collect eggs. He also remains active with friends he has made through Special Olympics. Brad’s friends are in this area. His loving sisters and brother live in other states but have found creative ways to remain an active and important part of his life. Brad and his Mother shared a year together with us. After his Mother passed away, Brad approached Ruthie, our Art Therapist, saying that since both of his parents had now passed away he wondered if she and her husband would adopt him. He had his Bible under his arm. When they agreed, he told them to put their hand on his Bible and then he told them what to say. He now refers to them as Mom and Dad. He had called his Mother, “Mother Goose” and his Father “Mr. Professor”. So when he says Mom and Dad, we know he is talking about the young parents he adopted. His sense of belonging was expressed this week--in a very loving way. On Saturday, Brad played in the Bocce Ball tournaments and he had money to buy a souvenir. He brought this T-Shirt home for his Ruthie-Mom!
Purpose and Belonging are words that are used a lot. They conjure up warm and fuzzy feelings and also imply work and obligation. These are feelings shared when we celebrate a new job, plan for a wedding or anticipate welcoming a child into our lives. Research shows that purpose and belonging affect our health in positive ways. Their opposite - loneliness and hopelessness are detrimental to our health.
Before I make it sound like the notion of purpose and belonging are the solution to everything, let me be clear, people are complicated. In simple terms, all of us come with a mix of strengths, talents, weaknesses and challenges. Then when we factor in individual mental and physical health, social constructs and attitudes, zip code issues, lack of or access to goods in general (jobs, job skills, school, transportation, housing, food, healthcare, clothing and the many other resources needed to live and grow) and add the degree of resiliency a person may or may not have developed--we can begin to see that everyone has some basic needs and everyone has an individual story. Yet to flourish there is one thing we all need--each other! And that is foundational to why we are creating the first TIIN!
Audrianna Wu is one of our terrific interns this summer. She is a pre-med student from Northwestern College having an immersion experience in a non-traditional health care setting. After spending time working with and getting to know each of our residents, I asked her how things were going. She said, “It is so fun getting to know each resident! They all have such unique personalities!” I loved her response. We are all unique! And when we take the time to get to know individuals on a real level--it is fun!
Hope & A Future is a wonderful example of what can happen when people work together. It started as an idea without financial backing by people with very limited business savvy. Because people and businesses with needed skills and financial resources joined forces with our passion and healthcare background--we now run an award winning intergenerational group home where residents and staff live and flourish as a family of friends! And, we are working to expand! This is a result of intentional purpose and belonging!
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Written by members of the Hope & a Future community including residents, volunteers, and staff.