Someone was interested in my life experiences, a friend who has only known
me as a Bin Order Filler at Advance Auto.
A man had overheard my talking to a past nurse’s aide who had been there
at Arbors. He and his wife had worked one long hall every night together.
We would “loop them in,” for Activities trips, while they enjoyed the break
from their routines, they also were amused at our fishing trips, restaurant
“Lunches Out” and they came with us to see the Columbus Clippers.
I had written an article about my Activities experience for a church newsletter
years ago. I had updated it within a year and submitted it for a contest. This
may be of interest to some of you. I am wondering if anyone will comment
about my writing “voice.”
When I left babysitting behind, also substitute teaching, I had a friend,
Jane, from my church who worked in the business office of Arbors
Nursing Home at: 2270 Warrensburg Road, Delaware, Ohio 43015.
I met a lot of wonderful people during the period I worked there:
Fall, 1994 until Summer, 1999.
I took a series of Activities courses, which raised my pay at the time,
from $8.50 to $10.00.
Do I sound like I have the same way of writing as of this time period?
Do I have a more relaxed tone these days to my writing “voice?”
Once Upon a Time:
My Story about My
Experiences in the
“There are times in the days of being a member of a nursing home activities
program where there is great joy and humor.
At those bright moments I could say I live a vision of excellence.
I enjoy engaging residents with reminiscing. This sometimes comes naturally
while we are in the ‘kitchen’ with Robin. We once a week gather a group of
men and women who are interested in eating what is made, along with the
processes of chopping, cutting, stirring and sauteeing foods. The memories
that our elderly friends focus in on are varied, from their favorite receipes
to what traditions their families engaged in while they joined together in a meal.
The stories are heartwarming and richly laced with humor, details and zest for
having an audience interested in really listening to them.
After the ‘good old day’ are re-lived while making homemade noodles or rolls,
all made ‘from scratch,’ I can live serendipitously in the past with them, part
of their family and new memories being made. An example of an activity some
teachers like to do with young students, as well as I did with the older folks I
came to love and adore, was to take simple ingredients to shake a mason
jar until they turned into butter. One man I remember said these simple but
“It never tasted better than when you churned butter knowing it came from
cows I had milked at dawn.”
Another gentleman ‘pitched in’ by adding the kitties dancing on their hind
legs, were his favorite part of milking his Jersey cows, since he could point
an udder and let a stream of fresh, warm milk go to the kitties. He added,
“Why their whiskers would be coated with creamy white milk, their tongues
a-licking and their little bodies shaking from excitement.”
There were also serious and sad moments where tears streamed down my
cheeks. Quiet moments where the older adult would put his or her hand in
mine. Sometimes the wish to ‘Leave this Earth’ would be spoken, with the
loved ones or Hospice worker close by. It was especially painful the first
year of working there, so many new and special people did not make it
to my second year.
It was so easy to get attached.
I was very careful to wear gloves while visiting with food, taking them off
to give human touch to someone.
Holding them (both in warm embraces and also, in our hearts) is part of
daily living for workers at our nursing home. To move someone from a
wheelchair into a seat on the bus, you lean forward, they put their hands
together weaving their fingers together, making a bond. Then, you use
your back and neck to help pull them forward out of their wheelchair and
you carefuly loop your arm around their neck, walking them side by side
down the aisle between seats on the Arbors bus. You pivot and help them
to get secured with a seat belt, once they are seated. It makes me smile
to think of the ones who are like little kids, asking if they can have the
much coveted ‘window seats?’
Living with high expectations of yourself, encompasses not only the highest
goals of fulfilling the job roles but also knowing which moments to slow down,
listen, comfort, cry and laugh out loud.
Sometimes there are ‘breakthrough’ moments where someone who was not
able to do much more than point, somehow will say a sentence.
Lean in, put your ear by their mouth, trust it will be precious, like you may
have heard a child’s first word.
Another will exclaim, unexpectedly while looking out the window,
“There’s a squirrel!”
“There’s a little girl pushing a baby carriage!”
Or, in a strange twist on this last one, seeing the baby carriage and
child– “I used to take my baby pig, Hermoine, on walks in a
If you are like I was, you may need clarification for this old-fashioned
word for a baby carriage.
Nothing better than those endearing stories and breakthroughs. . .
A lady who had been through some dark days, time had passed
since she had been a ‘regular’ to our activities. When I had gone
past her room to announce, “Coffee, tea and doughnuts offered,”
she had turned her head. I went past the nurse to ask her if she
could swallow or did I need any thickening mix to bring with her?
I asked if she had a hair appointment, but they said if I wanted to
get some cash out at the front desk, Cinda would give her enough
for a ‘wash and set.’
We had a light classical radio station on, which brought some bits
of conversation about commercials. The woman who had been in
a ‘fog’ for weeks on end, looked around and said,
“This is the most beautiful room I have ever been in!”
Later, after tea, a half of a doughnut and some small strands of
conversation, her nicely set head was starting to droop. I told
Lori I was going to take Ethel back to her room. She came around
from the other side of the activities tables, where she had been
‘doing manicures,’ to give Ethel a hug. Ethel called her who I believe
to be her daughter. Lori ‘rolled with it,’ saying, “I love you, Mom! See
you next week.”
When I took her down the hall to her room, I sang my usual song,
“My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.” It is a calming and familiar song,
which helps to notify them of a transition back to their rooms, if they
had been around me for awhile.
As I saw her door approaching, I said in a singsong voice,
“Home again, home again, lickety split.”
When I got inside the room, I put her wheelchair facing the television,
bent down to give her a hug.
She patted the side of my cheek, she looked into my eyes and
said the sweetest whisper of a “Thank you.”
Her bright shining eyes with the light inside on, would have been
enough gratitude for me.
Nursing home residents become more than people to take care of,
they become friends.”
Robin Oldrieve Cochran, July 8, 1999.
I received a Surprise going away party on this day. I was given a
beautiful large rectangular cake with a train on it, it had blocks of
“A, B, C.” There was a clown on the caboose and a conductor
who reminded me of Mr. Greenjean’s from Captain Kangaroo.
The cake read: “We Will Miss You, Robin!
Please Come Back, Riding the Crazy Train
Back to Arbors.” 😦
I became a teacher again, with preschool classes with integrated
enrollment. Children diagnosed by a team, during each summer,
completing tests and task, then a meeting with parents to develop
a plan of action called an I.F.S.P. Later, when they were older, an
exit test and set of tasks were carried out, to determine if there were
still needs to be met. Anything from psychological, emotional, motor
(gross motor and fine motor), language, daily living skills and goals
were set for each child who needed them. If the child was on the
border of needing or qualifying for school, we would suggest they
attend as a ‘mentor’ or ‘typically developing peer group member.’
We had a total of 12 students, comprised of 8 Special Needs and
4 Typically Developing.
I urge parents of children who don’t see their grandparents
often, to take them in and ask for a Calendar of Events.
Choose something your child enjoys, maybe it is cooking,
singing or listening to music, or coming over to a nursing
home during Exercise Time. (We called it Motion Time.)
I also liked when we had pen pals from classrooms at
school. I would read the letters to the more cognitive
and aware patients, then would write a return letter back
to the children. It was great with 3rd or 4th grade, and we
would invite them to meet at the beginning of school,
and then again at the end of school, our facility would
give them a picnic. This was a very popular activity, which
led me back to teaching when a nurse from our home was
going up to Morrow County to Whetstone River Family and
Children’s Center. (WRFCC.)
Here are the special names of ones my family and I loved:
Bernie, whose daughter in law was Suzy at the Columbus Zoo.
Daisy, who bonded with my oldest daughter and talked with
her about her grandmother who had a flower name, (My Mom
who is also known as “Rose.”)
Charles, who my youngest daughter would push his heavy
body in a wheelchair which seemed to have no ability to
move forward, rubber wheels were worn. He told her she was
the, “Prettiest little thing I have ever seen. Those puppy dog
eyes will get you anything you want. . . within reason!”
My son liked to go down to the rehabilitation area, where he
‘took’ to a man who had had a serious motorcycle crash.
This man looked ‘rough around the edges, with a multitude
of tattoos, one completely nude woman, included. His name
was Chris, he and Jamie would talk about his favorite subject,
football. They also would scan pages in Jamie’s Guinness Book
of World Records. Jamie would go down two long halls to go
‘fetch Chris a sweet roll and coffee with cream and sugar in
it from the closed dining room.’
Chris recuperated after 6 long months in a body cast.Chris
brought a lot of hearts fluttering and excitement when he finally
wanted to come down to Wednesday Night Bingo. Jamie would
get two cards for himself, since the prizes were a quarter for
every 5 in a row, “Bingo!” and a whole dollar for the complete
card filled out. Chris and Jamie would be joking the whole time,
which did disturb the ladies who really concentrated and liked
it quiet! Most Bingo games at nursing homes are happy to have
guests, since it brings a feeling or air of expectancy to the night.
We always served treats and beverages, to also get more people
Last but not least, most places have Halloween Trick or Treat
nights, Easter Egg Hunts and Christmas Parties, where guests
are encouraged, especially since little ones bring smiles and
more fun reactions.
Have you tried this with your children or grandchildren yet?
Any other philanthropic projects which you and the kids do?
Postscript: Don’t forget to tell me about my past writing compared
to my ‘present’ style.
Also, I am heading to Cleveland to spend time with my Mom,
after we finish a half day of work on Friday. I will check using
my super-sensitive cell phone and also, try to read and respond
to posts. See you after July 5th for a post about all of Mom’s and
my adventures. The huge thrift store on Lorain Road in North
Olmsted, meals out, unexpected silly comments will be noted and
reported, while spending my summer week’s vacation with Mom: