Editor’s note: Jill Faul’s mother works in a long term care facility and is doing some really positive work through the pandemic. Her daughter tells the story.
With all the doom and gloom in the news today, I want to share a good news story coming from a small long-term care facility in Southern Saskatchewan. Langenburg Centennial Care Home is home to 40 residents. Activity Director, Carol Schaab has been working tirelessly to ensure the isolation and loneliness for the residents isn’t their only focus. I can tell you first hand, as Carol’s daughter her generous heart and creative spirit have inspired the community around her, and her activities just keep getting better and better.
Carol recognized early on that it was unique for the care home to have six women with healthy minds over the age of 100. She thought that is a lot of wisdom for one place. These women were born between 1912-1918 and have already lived through one pandemic. So Carol decided to start the Wise Women Wisdom Club for residents over 100 years of age. The oldest woman will be turning 108 on June 16, and the “baby” of the group will be 101 this July; that is a lot of wisdom to share.
The first meeting the ladies introduced themselves and their birthdays, they all burst into applause for each other. Carol gave them a pearl necklace to symbolize the pearls of wisdom they shared through their experiences and to thank them for they are “precious as pearls”. As they sat and visited, she asked them many questions. Questions about books, movies, event’s in their lives and of course what was their secret to a healthy long life. These women offered sage advice: “Be happy, be agreeable, be busy, be kind, love people, keep warm blankets, work hard, enjoy life and trust in the Lord”.
They talked about the pandemic and other tragic life events. They talked about what scares them, their best age and even their bad habits. Most of the women never drank (unless you count wine in fruit cake), most said they never curse (except one who occasionally had to curse at her husband) lol. They all had problems in life to overcome but they simply said they got through them. They were happy with what they had and didn’t worry about the things they didn’t. The best advice they shared was to behave well to other people. Show them respect and it will be repaid 100 fold. Their memories and stories will not be forgotten and now they have a place once a month to reminisce together.
Carol also noticed early on in the pandemic that resident, Darby Readman needed something to keep his mind busy. She thought he might enjoy painting a birdhouse, which he did quickly. He loved to be busy and after the second birdhouse, she went looking for a bigger project for Darby. Luckily, Carol salvaged a pile of pre-cut 2x2 square plywood pieces. She would come in early or stay late and tape a couple boards for Darby to paint. She told Darby, “Hopefully the pandemic will be over before you finish all these boards”. The painted boards kept growing so they discussed how they could display them. At first they thought maybe on a fence but they were not certain how they would weather. Once they had all the boards laid out it started to look like a quilt, so they decided on an art installation, titled, “Pandemic Quilt”. Darby suggested a star pattern would look best in the center while some tiles have circles to represent the coronavirus. Carol recognized Darby’s need to be busy and created work for him to feel valued. It is an incredible testament to the innovation coming from the darkest corners.
This story is not complete without sharing the Mother’s Day activity this year. Carol and the care home staff knew how challenging it would be to do something special for the residents when they couldn’t gather together or see their families. So, many of the staff volunteered their time to help create a Mother’s Day salon and photoshoot. Carol enlisted help from residents to create an incredible hand crafted floral backdrop for photos. Fellow staff member and professional photographer, Lisa Shauf volunteered to take photos of the residents. They had stations set up for women to get hair and make up done by staff, most of whom volunteered to come help. Carol had all the make up donated by her sister, Barb. The residents also had their hands massaged and nails painted by staff, then they had a portrait taken in front of the floral background. Carol said, “I wanted families to know that their Moms and Grandmas are loved, appreciated and still could feel good no matter their age on Mother’s Day”. A few days after the photo shoot, a 101-year-old resident came and asked Carol if the pictures were done. She said they would have them back soon. The resident replied, “ Oh, good. I want to see if I looked as beautiful as everyone said I did.” The self care provided by care home staff gave these mother’s and grandmother’s love and validation on an otherwise lonely day.
There are dark days in insolation. The residents in long-term care facilities feel this first hand. They can’t visit their kids or hug anyone, and they have to eat their meals alone instead of visiting with resident friends. They are completely cut off from the outside world and the news continues to be filled with the sadness care homes have to endure. But this is a good news story, because there are good people, like Carol Schaab and the staff at Langenburg Centennial Care Home spreading kindness and thoughtful action throughout the province and Canada. Providing a safe, comforting space to rest, share and create away from the pandemic. A place where they can continue to feel valued and most of all loved.