President for a Day

Tomorrow I become the “president” of Aegis Living for the day. What does that mean? I really have no idea, but I know I get to spend the whole day with the current president at the Aegis Living home office. I love working with seniors and really hope to learn more than I have already in my working career. I am excited to learn about the “other side” of senior living.

This caused me to reminisce on how I got started with seniors? I don’t know if I have ever written it down.

I say my love for seniors began when I was 14. At that age we were learning about the Renaissance Period and all that was invented, created, revived and learned. We were encouraged to learn about something we did not know about and to do something we had never done before. My grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease so my dad encouraged me to learn more about it (She lived in Ohio, we lived in Washington). My mom encouraged me to then find a memory care facility where I could play my flute for seniors with dementia. (This was also when I was first introduced to A Bicycle Built for Two!!) I did my research and called a local facility to play at in Kent. (That facility is now an Aegis Living facility and I have happy memories every time I walk through those doors.) I remember being so nervous to play in front of people. It didn’t matter what population it was. I learned a couple important lessons this day.

Number one… if I messed up, they quickly forgot. SO there was no need to be nervous! I secretly hope everyday my residents will forget if I ever feel nervous.

Number two… seniors with dementia say WHATEVER is on their mind. As I was playing I could hear those sweet residents’ comments…

“Oh, look at that sweet child.”

“Her face is red. I think she is going to pass out.”

“BOO!! She is playing too loud.”

Number three… the importance of skin to skin contact and holding hands. After I played my flute I would massage the little old ladies hands and paint their nails. To this day I hold my residents hands as often as I can. There is trust in holding a hand.

Now that I think about it… a lesson I learned after the fact. I remember that every time I played the residents would be seated and ready to welcome me into their home. Ever since then, when a young person asks to play for my residents, I quickly say, “Yes!” and make sure my seniors are ready and waiting to welcome them into our community.

Throughout my youth there were many more opportunities to serve seniors. There were many times our youth group would go and sing in nursing homes. I would visit some home-bound seniors with my mom and bring them food from our church and just show them some little extra love and attention. (Oh, Sister Brown and her hugs!!)

And even one year getting stuck in an elevator with Santa, Mrs Claus, an elf and my family! (It was so hot in the elevator everything started to fog up!)

I forgot that I went and played my flute years later with my flute teacher and the same facility where it all began. (That photo was in 2001. Thank you daddy for digging it out!)

My senior year in high school my very smart and intuitive mother encouraged me to take the Certified Nursing Assistant transfer course. I did, I learned, I served… and while I was still in high school I got my first “real” job at a facility. What a learning experience that was! A naïve 18 year old getting pinched in the rear for the first time. To see the memory loss and how it affected residents and families on a deeper level. Being dropped off at the corner of the street because one of my residents eloped and needed a walk back. Death… the care and love and respect needed to care for someone as they were taking their last breaths. I learned to love unconditionally. To love a person and not get frustrated because of their disease. I learned that those you work with become your family and that the residents and their families become your family. I learned just about everything I know from that facility. I worked there from the age of 18 until just shy of 30. I grew up there and the residents were a big part of that. They wrote me while I was in college and gave me advice. I learned to be a caregiver, a medication technician, a server, a housekeeper, an administrative intern, a receptionist, and most importantly a life enrichment director (I even did some maintenance and substituted for the business office manger once while she was on vacation). I learned how to be creative with residents with memory issues, a skill which has helped me tremendously at Aegis.

After almost a 12 year relationship I cut ties with that facility. I always want to work for a

company that puts people above finances. As of today I have been at Aegis Living for three years. A long but extremely rewarding 3 years. Choosing Aegis Living was the right decision. I love being apart of the Aegis Living family. I love learning from the amazing people I work with. I love working for a company that values their workers and residents. They care! They truly care and it makes a difference.

So, as it is getting rather late and my brain no longer wants to function, I am so excited to learn more tomorrow… learn another side of the senior living industry. It can only help me in my future.