As if going home after a stint in a rehabilitation facility wasn’t exciting enough, the staff at St. Teresa Rehabilitation and Nursing Center have created a ceremony to make each patient’s exit even more special.

Every time someone “graduates” from the therapy program and is ready to go home, employees and residents gather to send off the new alumni the song “Show me the way to go home.” They also are given a loaf of tea bread, a certificate of accomplishment and hugs goodbye. 

Luanne Rogers, the administrator at St. Teresa, estimates that 95% of her short-term rehab patients will eventually go home, about six a month. She wants to ensure it’s a meaningful parting.

“We shouldn’t just escort the people who die,” Rogers said. “We want to make leaving here happy because we just like to have fun!”

When the time comes, some (newly former) patients laugh, some are shocked and some cry.

One of Roger’s most memorable send-offs was for a 93-year-old woman who had fallen at home. She was determined to return to previous routines back and worked tirelessly until it was her time to leave. On her way out the door, she raised her arms high above her head in triumph. 

“Wahoo! I’m going home,” the woman roared to cheering and applause.

The ceremony, which was started before Rogers joined the St. Teresa team, recently got the addition of the tea bread. It’s made in-house by the kitchen staff and Rogers encourages patients to enjoy the bread on their first morning back home with a cup of coffee. 

Rogers says that it’s important to celebrate when people get their independence back. That is why she makes a point to be at every send-off to hand off the tea bread and the certificate, congratulate the patient and wave as they drive back home.