Welcome to Our Community Blog!
Welcome to our community! We will introduce you to many of the fascinating people who make up the world of United Methodist ElderCare: residents, employees, family members, trustees and volunteers. Altogether we are a community of people who struggle to be our best selves, make sense of the life we have been given and show our love and appreciation for one another.
As a wise leader knows, surround yourself with smart people and you will do just fine. So we plan to share their experiences and wisdom as well as that of the staff, family members and volunteers who ensure our residents receive the great care, amenities and respect they deserve. Perhaps some of these observations or their words of wisdom will strike a chord in you. Please join us by clicking the subscribe button below and we will give you a glimpse inside our community where older persons live in comfort, with dignity, and purpose.
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Just as air, food and water are necessary for life, clean laundry is necessary for a nursing home’s existence. Maria Periquito, Cheryl Miller and Barbara Branca are Linn Health Care Center’s three laundry room workers. They keep every washable article clean and tidy. Each day two of the three are scheduled to begin work at 7 AM, attacking a mountain of laundry all day until they punch out at 3PM.
In a typical day, they wash 10 loads of laundry in the 60 pound washer and another 10 loads in the 50 pound washer. Three huge industrial dryers are always running simultaneously in the laundry room, which registers about 80 degrees warm by the afternoon. The bins of dry laundry that need folding are as seemingly endless as Rumpelstiltskin’s mountain of straw and the service that they provide is gold to Linn Health Care Center.
Not only do these three women do the laundry for 84 residents, but also clean all the linens, jonnies, towels and bed curtains at Linn Health Care Center. In addition to that, they wash, dry and fold all the table cloths for Winslow Gardens’ dining room every day. They also wash all the rags and mops for the housekeeping department, following strict health department guidelines in the process.
These laundry ladies have to have good organizational skills and attention to detail. Maria explains the system to me: they fill up four large carts and two smaller ones by the end of each day to deliver back to one of the nursing home floors. One day they wash clothes for the short term rehab residents on the third floor and the next day they wash clothes for the long term nursing care residents on the second floor. All the residents’ clothing have their names on the inside clothing tags and they sort the clothes to each resident’s assigned space on the cart. I took a photo of a cart so you could see it, along with the smiling face of our positive and perky laundry room worker, Barbara.
I marvel at their incredible physical strength required to do their jobs. It takes a lot of stamina to be constantly on their feet and a lot of upper body strength to continuously move their arms in order to fold the clothes.
They are dedicated to United Methodist Elder Care: Barbara has worked here for 7 years, Maria for 14 years, and Cheryl for a whopping 17 years! Thanks to these three beautiful women, the residents are tidy, clean and huggable! In celebration of laundry workers week, let’s be sure to thank and hug a laundry worker too for all the important work that they do!
Lora, age 98, sits reading her romance novel in her oversized armchair, covered in a pink gingham throw that she sewed herself. She is receptive to being interviewed and appreciates the company, escorting me down her memory lane. Reminiscing about her childhood on a farm in North Providence, she excitedly tells me about the good old days when her Italian father slaughtered the pig on Sundays and invited the extended family for dinner, serving his home-made wine. They had chickens and goats and lots of vegetables in their garden. Her mother would get up at 4:00 AM to weed and had a kitchen in the basement for canning. “I really had it so good and never realized it until later in life”, Lora says wistfully.
She married and had a son and a daughter and was always the dutiful mother and wife: cooking and cleaning and doing the laundry and sewing. Lora still has a sewing machine in her apartment and boasts about how she made all her daughter’s dresses, until her daughter turned 11 and wanted store-bought clothes. I look around her one room apartment at Winslow Gardens where she has lived for the past ten years and notice how it shines and everything is perfectly in its place. Just like Lora: who always looks perfectly put together – stylishly dressed. When asked how she looks so young, she credits Oil of Olay skin cream that she religiously used. Looking at her wrinkle-free face, I can’t imagine that she ever endured any hardship in life, but after a while she reveals more.
“I used to take two buses to work at Trifari in East Providence, where I set rhinestones in pins for 25 years,” she relays to me. In fact, she set the rhinestones in Mrs. Eisenhower’s pearl necklace that she wore during Dwight’s inauguration. Lora also tells me how her husband was too ill to work consistently throughout their marriage and I get the idea that she carried the family through those times. “I never had much of anything, but never went hungry or lacked necessities. I never bought on credit.”
Lora learned about Winslow Gardens when her husband was so ill that he had to go into Linn Health Care Center where he lived out his last days. “They took wonderful care of him. I can’t say enough good things about that place,” she tells me referring to the adjacent nursing home to her present home. Her husband passed on 16 years ago.
She suddenly said, “You want to hear a sad story?” Then she proceeded to open up to me. A couple years after her husband passed, she met a nice man at a musical performance – in fact he played in the band. He was a younger man and she warned him of her older years, but it wouldn’t stop him to taking a strong liking to her. They dated for a while and he spoiled her with gifts – something Lora never had experienced before. Her life had always been so full of hard work. He whisked her off to Italy and while there proposed marriage to her. Lora felt like Cinderella at the ball. But while exiting a bus on that trip, he collapsed, leaving Lora screaming for him to get up. He had suffered a fatal aneurysm.
So here she is at Winslow Gardens, painting with oils and still cooking and sewing; enjoying her grandchildren when they come to visit. “Life is so hard sometimes,” she tells me tearing up.
“Ah, but the memories,” I reply, “they are so beautiful, aren’t they?”
“It’s like a hotel here! What’s to complain about?” Mary Silva tells me in her cheerful upbeat voice, “They clean my room and cook for me and I don’t have to do anything.”
She moved to St. Germain Assisted Living six months ago. Mary told me a story about how she had lost all her possessions in a disaster that made her homeless. She then moved in with her daughter for a year until it reached a point where she needed her own space; “I’m 92 and don’t even own a blanket” she would say to herself.
Born and raised in Manhattan, Mary was married until her husband’s untimely death at the age of 59. “I was married for 39 years and have been alone for 34 years.” Mary observes. Three children came from that marriage which has now blossomed into five grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and even one great-great grandchild. Best of all they all live in the area.
Her husband was a pastry chef and ran a bakery in Lincoln called the Saan-Joet Bakery. Mary worked right alongside him.
“Was it difficult to work with your husband all day long?” I ask her, ever the nosy interviewer.
She wisely replied, “I ran the front and he ran the back and that’s how we got along!”
He then became allergic to flour and went to work for Texas Instruments. Mary took her retail skills to Peerless in Lincoln until the store closed. That’s when she decided to retire from work.
These days Mary spends her time reading mysteries, thrillers and love stories, which must be the reason her mind is so sharp.
She is philosophical about life: “I’ve had a good life filled with many blessings.” She also tells me that she has chosen not to undergo any medical interventions for her lung cancer.
“What’s a perfect day for you?” I ask her.
“A perfect day is every Saturday when my son comes to spend time with me. He takes me to the hairdresser and then lunch and finally shopping.” A stylish dresser, Mary’s favorite store is Macy’s.
Hey, what more can a gal ask for? Yes, Mary has certainly been blessed – and we are blessed to have such a positive and brave woman living with us at St. Germain Assisted Living!
Norman Baird was a resident at Winslow Gardens for the past five years. His wife, Jane, lived in the adjacent Linn Health Care Center, and that is one of the reasons he chose to live nearby. After he lost his license to drive, living next door to Jane made their daily visits possible. They were devoted to each other, saying goodnight and “I love you” by phone each night before bed. Sadly, Jane passed away in 2014 and Norman continued on for another year, until making his departure from this world this past January.
I had the pleasure of many interactions with Norman over the past two years. He was always so pleasant and cheerful. He would participate in the men’s breakfasts and the weekly exercise classes, lifting the hand weights and kicking from his wheelchair. What a trooper!
As I got to know Norman better, I discovered that he had quite a few interesting hobbies over the years to include building ships inside bottles and had even been in a car race! But I think that Norman’s most impressive hobby was taking karate lessons in his senior years. With Norman’s physical limitations and advanced years, he was a remarkable karateka with a true “fighter’s spirit”. And isn’t that what the martial arts is all about? Fighting our own limitations with persistence and earnestness. Watch the video of Norman talking about his karate hobby, synched with footage from his karate days!
I sit with Myra on the couch at her Arbor Hill apartment and she shows me her artwork and the notecards that she makes to raise money for five different charities. They are primarily nonprofits that help victims of human trafficking, as well as her church, Victory Assembly of God.
“You’re very talented, “I comment while sifting through her mountains of artwork.
“Only through God,” Myra replies humbly, “I write poetry too.”
“I have a poem somewhere around here called “Where’d I Put It?” she chuckles as she gets up and peaks in a few folders on her dresser, “but I can’t find it right now.” She chuckles some more. I am wondering if she is pulling a joke on me or if she really wrote a poem about that. I’m a little naïve that way.
Myra suggests to me that we should purchase exercise equipment and open a gym for the residents. She tells me that she used to be in the army and enjoys working out.
“I have to take it easy for now because I just had my first heart attack,” she matter-of-factly relays as if she planned to have several more. I marvel because she is almost 93 years old.
Growing up in Albany, New York, Myra was raised as a Methodist. She has dedicated herself to God and spends every Sunday afternoon handing out tracts about Christianity because “all the trouble in the world is all in the Bible.”
“I’m never too old to do God’s work,” she tells me, “You know, it’s incredible how God works through people to accomplish things. Wow! Really amazing!”
Myra has a long list of accomplishments in life: having raised two kids and adopted many “spiritual” children as well, starting a library at her church, raising money for charities and traveling to Viet Nam, where her son lives.
She is resilient having endured much in her youth: orphaned and abused before she was adopted. “God was good to me by giving me people to watch over me.”
“Any advice for us?” I ask her.
“Yeah, don’t get too much stuff in your life. Now where did I put that poem?”
God bless those with a sense of humor! They spice up the bland, stuffiness of every day existence. These folks are the ones who seek to brighten your day – even if your day is going just fine.
Bill Murphy says good morning to me from the corner of the empty dining room where he sits after breakfast hours. He has fixed himself a cup of coffee from the open drink station and greets folks who walk through the dining room to go from one building to the other. Today I decide to go over and chat with him for a few minutes.
Bill greets me with a joke: “What did one eyeball say to the other eyeball?” I scramble back into the chaos of disjointed memory cells and amaze myself as I retrieve the answer and reply, “Between us, something smells!”
“That’s great! You remember!” Bill praises me. I’m feeling a sense of pride because remembering jokes is not one of my strong suits. “Here is another one,” Bill tests me again: “What goes up the road and down the road, but doesn’t move?”
This one I don’t remember him telling me before but I can be logical at times and reply, “The lines?”
“That’s right! You’re doing great!” Bill is building my confidence in myself. Who knows? Maybe that standup comedy career I’m dreaming of isn’t as far into the future as I think. Maybe my lifelong dream of being friends with Jim Carrey is on the horizon…
“One more,” Bill says, “What’s the difference between an in-law and an outlaw?” Uh oh. I can’t remember nor deduce the answer. Darn! I know he has told me this one before. I stare at Bill blankly as my dreams on the horizon become further and further away.
Bill finally gets to have his punch line: “The outlaw’s wanted!”
I laugh – now that is funny! Who can’t relate to that?
I told him that I’m writing these down so I will be able to repeat them. And you can help Bill with his legacy of humor by retelling these jokes today. Just tell any joke to anybody today. Humor draws us together through understanding. My laughter means I like being with you and that I understand you. When someone is laughing at your joke, you just can’t feel lonely.
Last week we had a movie viewing of “The Fighting Seabees” starring John Wayne. Afterwards, our own Seabee star, Joe Andrews, a resident of Winslow Gardens, took the microphone and captivated the audience in attendance for about 20 minutes. He talked about his experience as a Seabee and we really enjoyed learning more about this important time in history. Here is a five minute interview of Joe, interspersed with real WWII footage, focused on his time as a Seabee. Joe is just another fascinating senior who resides in a United Methodist Elder Care property.
I asked Denni if I could take her photo and interview her for this blog and she obliged. I want you to meet her because she is such an asset to United Methodist Elder Care. I wish that we could claim Denni as only our’s, but the truth is Denni has two children at home, works another job AND attends college classes. She belongs to the world. But Monday through Friday from 7 AM to 3 PM, we have Denni here at Linn Health Care Center. She doesn’t just vacuum and perform other housekeeping duties, Denni sparkles a room by brightening it with her cheerful disposition. She can instantly put a person at ease – it is just a talent that she has.
I ask Denni, “What is the scariest thing that ever happened to you over the past four years on the job?” She relays a story to me: “One day while I was mopping the hallway in Linn Health Care Center, one of our residents was passing by and suddenly became faint. As she was falling, she reached out and grabbed onto my mop, which alerted me just in time to catch her, preventing her from hitting the floor. I was so scared.”
“Why Denni – you are a hero!” I exclaim.
“Nahhh”, Denni laughs humbly, “I was just so glad that I was there and able to catch her.”
We won’t always be so lucky to have Denni working with us because she is studying to be a phlebotomist and we don’t employ those. I ask her “How does a sweet gal like you ever want to puncture people’s blood vessels?”
She explains, “I became motivated from an experience I had with a very bad phlebotomist. She had zero people skills and didn’t even say hello back to me when I greeted her. I figured that I could be better than her at helping people relax.”
Ah, making lemonade out of lemons – how Denni is that?
It isn’t the growing old that is so difficult, it is the attendant aches and pains of poor and failing health that makes one feel old. And this can happen at any age. By the time we are in our fifties, we have a list of same-age friends who have come down with serious illnesses or live in chronic pain. I know this fifty-something-year old does.
Some of our residents shock and amaze me when I find out how old they are because they are so active, happy and the picture of good health. Some have all their teeth and many don’t wear glasses. And guess what? They are in their late 80s or early 90s! Every time I see Robert, age 82, who works out at the gym and drives a car and has a sturdy, steady stride, I say to myself, “See? He is proof that growing old is not so bad.”
Then there are much younger residents who are wheelchair-bound and even look older than their age. But we know that life isn’t fair.
What about those who look young and healthy, but suffer quietly and invisibly? As the Winslow Gardens author laureate, Myrna Griffith, writes, “Age isn’t always the reason we sit, viewing life from the sidelines.” She explains that “Others assume that because I’m younger than 80, I should be able to do more, but there are a few reasons that I can’t keep up anymore. They are all medical and mostly involve chronic pain.” She figures some folks might think she is lazy sipping her coffee and munching on a cookie while watching others do the work she used to do.
However, Myrna is adaptable to whatever happens in her life and applies a philosophical outlook to her physical ailments stating, “God and I know I have done my part in the past. I can relax and enjoy being a spectator now.” I marvel at her positive attitude and acceptance in the face of chronic pain. Why do we appreciate the folks who paint a happy face on the figure of pain?
God bless Myrna and all our friends who are younger than they feel.
Everyone at United Methodist Elder Care knows Mary – she has been here for nineteen years and serves as the Executive Assistant to the Executive Director.
Mary Montanaro is the face of Winslow Gardens. Her office is the first place a new visitor sees when they enter our independent and assisted living building. Mary embodies the ethos of our building: Always there to help, offers a welcoming and calming presence, provides good humor and great listening, and does it with a smile.
When asked about what she does here at Winslow Gardens, Mary said: “Going above and beyond is a daily occurrence. Whether it is delivering a package to a resident, helping them with their coats or sweaters, tying a shoe, plunging a toilet… It’s all part of life here.”
Not only do the residents rely on Mary for many daily things from collecting their mail, getting quarters for the laundry machines, or helping them pay their rent, but staff relies on Mary as well. We know that if we ask Mary to help, the job will be done right. We come to her with just as many things as the residents – help with computers, documentation, and institutional knowledge. It should also be remarked that our Executive Director, Paul Parks, Jr. relies on Mary for many things, including keeping his calendar straight, organizing Board of Trustee communications, and all manner of administrative work.
“Working at United Methodist Elder Care is very gratifying,” Mary told me. “Every day, I feel needed and appreciated.” When I press her for why she has stayed for nineteen years, Mary doesn’t hesitate and gives me a smile, “I love making a difference to the residents in their day-to-day lives. Sometimes just a smile, a hug, or asking how they are feeling, lets them know that I care.”
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Read the Stories of the folks who live, work, and volunteer at the United Methodist Elder Care properties. We are an interesting group!
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