No. 353

In recent months, nursing homes around the country have come under fire because of neglect, abuse and other problems real or perceived. In response to a column I wrote some time ago titled “To All Concerned”, I heard from a good number of readers who told me horror stories about what had happened to their loved ones while they were in a nursing home. Just one wrongful death, along with any form of abuse is unacceptable, but today there are many good things that are happening in nursing homes as well. Before I share something that makes more sense than anything does I have ever heard regarding nursing homes, I want to turn those pointing fingers around for just a moment.
In response to the same column I got a letter from Roy Kelley who lives in Enid, Oklahoma and before retirement was a fire safety inspector for nursing homes in his state. He then proceeded to tell me something that I should have included in my earlier column. He said he had learned from first hand experience from many administrators and fine employees that the thing that disturbs them most is “HOW MANY RESIDENTS HAVE RELATIVES IN THE SAME CITY OR TOWN, AND ONCE THE PERSON IS COMMITTED TO A NURSING HOME OR CARE CENTER, THEY NEVER CAME TO VISIT THAT PERSON AGAIN.” Oh, maybe on some special occasion. He said it was amazing how many caregivers told him the same story.
I forgot to mention that Roy Kelley was with the Enid Fire Department for 20 years and was a Fire Marshal when he retired. This leads me back to the idea I mentioned earlier that made more sense than anything do I have ever heard on this subject. This idea was contained in an article Roy sent me that was written by Jim Killackey, as it appeared in the Daily Oklahoman titled, “Young, old come together to learn, love.” Jim Killackey gave me permission
to share the essence of his fine article with you.
In the community of Jenks, which is located in Northeastern Oklahoma, there is a program that has made a tremendous difference in the lives of young and old alike. The concept is so simple, yet so effective, that it is amazing that no one has done it before. This is true for the state of Oklahoma and may be true for the rest of the nation as well. The Jenks Public Schools has combined forces with the Jenks Grace Living Center and is the only long-term care facility that hosts public school for 61 students ages, 4, 5 and 6. The program has been so successful that schools in Edmund and Oklahoma City are looking to establish a similar public school/nursing home setting in the metro area.
The Jenks School has two teachers, a principal, and parents as volunteer aides and selected nursing home residents. Parents of these young children are elated with what they have experienced. About 20 of the nursing home residents rotate daily into the school to assist the teachers and about 70% of all Grace Living Center residents interact with the children. While there is clearly a lot of love there, it is not all fun and games for the children, as they learn fine motor skills and they participate in activities such as cutting and drawing. Another important element of program is something called the “Eden Alternative.” The idea is that introducing children, animals and plants into homes for the elderly benefits the residents.
What they are actually doing is “Nurture Children” in the important things of life, while at the same time transforming a nursing home from a sterile, stark place, to one that is vibrant and alive. If you would like to know more, why not contact the Jenks Grace Living Center in Jenks, Oklahoma. I’m sure these fine people would be happy to share the good things that are happening there. Thanks, Mr. Kelley for sharing. Hopefully, others will see the wisdom of this idea. (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)