Make A Difference, Today!

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Allen Yearick, MHA, NHA
Allen Yearick, MHA, NHA
So often as administrators, we focus on the bigger picture items of our typical day: meetings, staffing, financials, marketing, building/maintenance, QI, etc. These are important and essential components of our daily routines. What's the primary reason we do what we do? Our residents.

One morning I came to work armed with what I thought was a simple gesture intended for one of our residents. A friend of mine had a couple pair of multi- colored shoelaces and I quickly asked if I could have a pair of them. I recalled seeing my resident the day before with his slightly worn, wing-tipped shoes “sans” shoelaces.

“Georgie,” you see, was one of our more colorful residents. He always wore brightly colored and often mismatched articles of clothing, typically with a floral tie and jewelry adorning wrists and fingers.

Now mind you, the names Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Tommy Hilfiger were not foreign to his tastes from an earlier period of life and family. Although his attire had became somewhat worn from the facility laundry, he and I had developed a special bond acknowledging his expressive clothing combinations.

“I have something for you,” I said after greeting him outside my office, which was often customary before my morning meeting. He usually presented the overhead morning announcements of activities and/or other pertinent factoids for the day surrounding some historical event, anniversary or general “tidbits” acknowledging people, places or events of note. (I often shared something I had heard on my hour-drive to work listening to NPR to add to his repertoire, which was always welcomed.)

“I noticed yesterday you needed shoelaces," I told him and smiled. "I thought you might like these to brighten up those ol' wingtips!”

He held them for a moment and then looked up at me and grinned.  “Wow,” he said, his voice crackling ever so slightly, “I've never received anything as wonderful as this from an administrator!”

I was truly caught off guard. As he clutched them and continued thanking me as he strode off down the hallway, the emotion of the moment crept in. I had underestimated the meaningfulness of something so simple as a pair of shoelaces.

You see, it's the little things, the simple things, the gesture or the thought, that sometimes can be so powerful. And yet, I was caught off guard.

“Make A Difference, Today!” — I've always used this simple message, whether in one of my memos or announcements. It's on a banner I placed near the staff time clock and on the wall in the conference room for the management team.

I believe it's always been a part of any message, either written or spoken, that I give each day since being committed to the field of long-term care.

Our profession needs more of it … ”Make A Difference, Today!”

Here are a few “Moments of Truth” suggestions you can try:

1. Bring a bright colored ribbon or bow (or a pair of shoelaces!) and along with one of your Staff, share this with one of your residents.

2. Sit on the front porch for 15 minutes rocking in a rocking chair and visit with a resident.

3. Hold someone's hand.

4. Plan a walk or push a wheelchair with your resident to a local convenience store or local shop.

5. Take a resident to church or Mass.

6. Join a resident for lunch and listen closely to learn something about his or her life.

7. Take time to lead an activity such as bingo, arts and crafts, Wii, or read a Bible passage.

8. Help serve morning coffee on a holiday.

9. Set up an omelet station and serve residents once a month.

10.  Call a resident's family member or friend just to say “hello” and really visit with him or her.

11. Personally recognize every birthday.

Allen Yearick, MHA, NHA, is based in Bradenton, FL.

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