Monday, August 02, 2010

Splashing, Eating, Chatting, Chilling: The Usual Fun Summer Outing at the Lake, Except That It's Not.

It's a storybook summer scene. Young, not-so-young, old (me, at 72), taking  time out from life at a beautiful lake. In the photo, they soak, float, chat,  and laze away a summer day at Lake Saccarappa in Oxford, Mass.

The scene is perfect, right down to the perfect dive by Karina, 15. (On the dive, she got a rating of 9 out of a possible 10. Hey, she's got to have something to work for.) Karina was there along with several teen friends, shown in this photo.

You would never guess from all the smiles and fun that most of the people at this carefree summer outing are residents of the Crescent Manor Rest Home in Grafton, Mass. They are there because for any number of reasons, they have had trouble living independently. For now, Crescent Manor is their home.

It is where they get the medical, nursing, and counseling services they need from a dedicated staff of 32. To serve 58 residents, staff is on duty 24 hours a day in three shifts. Many staff members have worked at Crescent Manor for many years.

Ruby Pollock, my sister and the Assistant Administrator  has worked at Crescent Manor for 22 years. Ruby organized this outing, raised money for it -- including the cost of a van for to and from transport -- and provided the beautiful location: her longtime summer cottage. In the big photo above, she is shown floating on an inflatable just under Karina's dive. Karina is her granddaughter.

Also shown in the photo above is Karen Calkins, a psychological counselor, who has been working with Crescent Manor residents for 23 years. She is sitting on the dock watching Karina's dive. Ruby and Karen are professionals.  But here they are, relaxing and hanging out right along with their clients.

As the day went on, however, Karen could be seen having long one-on-one talks with residents. Karen  sits with Tony, 73 and a 5-year resident of Crescent Manor. As they talk, they watch three of Karina's young friends enjoy the water.  Next, Karen is in earnest conversation with Paul, a 6-year resident of Crescent Manor, who is legally blind. He didn't swim but, judging from his ready smile, he felt right at home.

A feeling of home is an important goal that Ruby has for the residents. Having grown up herself in foster homes, she has a special understanding of home  and family. Entirely on her own, she put herself through Worcester State College where she received a BS Degree.  She went on to qualify as a Licensed Social Worker.

At Crescent Manor, Ruby does everything she can to make residents feel at home, from respecting privacy to encouraging family contacts and social interaction and self-help. Boy, was there a ton of social interaction here at her cottage!

She also gives residents hope. "I make sure new residents have hope from day one," she said. "No one can live without hope. No one should have to." The hope can be to regain physical health and mobility or  to overcome any number of emotional and psychological problems.

Very often, the goal is to resume living independently. Ruby said that is true of perhaps 40% of current residents. One resident who is getting ready to go out and live on her own  is Pat, 61. After 11 years at Crescent Manor, she is hoping to be out on her own over the next six months. Ruby thinks she can do it and she and others on the Crescent Manor staff are working hard to make it happen.  In the photo, Pat is relaxing on a float in the water.  The smile on her face says it all.

When residents succeed in leaving for independent living, Ruby makes sure they do so with a safety net. "I tell them that if they get in trouble, give me a call," Ruby said. "Crescent Manor will be here for them."

Sitting on the deck lounge chair behind Pat is Dolores, 49, another resident that Crescent Manor helped achieve a big goal: citizenship. The staff supported and encouraged the Philippines-born Dolores to fill out the paperwork and study hard.

She met all the requirements, took and passed the test. A Crescent Manor staff member, Laurie Curran, accompanied her to Faneuil Hall in Boston, where she was sworn in as a U.S. citizen. A celebration party for Dolores was held at Crescent Manor.

One of the youngest residents at the outing was  Fred, just 55.  A 12-year resident of Crescent Manor, he has come a long way. Once greatly overweight, he has shed a lot of pounds by exercising and watching what he eats.

However, at this outing, he didn't do much exercising, as this photo graphically illustrates.  In fact, he didn't do any at all. Here he is having a nice snooze in the water.

Is that any way to work up an appetite?

There was plenty of food. As residents arrived, Karina offered them her homemade fried dough. Below she is cooking up a batch.  The fried dough went fast, though the disciplined Fred declined seconds.

Yes, that's right, Karina the prize-winning diver is also a fine cook. In the photo below, she is shown preparing her fried dough. Besides entertaining her young friends, she also ran around helping her Mimi Ruby.  She is a 15-year-old who acts like an adult. She and Tony, 73, played a little game in which he tried to guess her age.

"He started at 23," Karina said, "and he had to keep going down and down. Can you believe he thought I was 23?"

Also cooking was Michelle Palmer, the activities director at Crescent Manor. Drafted into cooking up hot dogs and buns on an unfamiliar grill and with a tricky lighter, she fearlessly plunged in. In no time, she had the lighter and grill going and guests were eating hot dogs along with Ruby's specialty potato salad.

Like Karen and Ruby, Michelle mingled easily with residents throughout the day, sitting with them, chatting with them, literally disappearing among them. Staff and residents interacted so easily and completely that it would be hard for anybody just showing up to tell them apart.

Residents sat at a long bench and ate looking out at the water. If this view won't stimulate the appetite, I don't know what would.

Some residents wanted no part of swimming and could care less about even being outside. In fact, they preferred to relax, eat, talk, and watch TV  inside the cottage.

Here Lorraine and Eloise are inside watching President Obama being interviewed on The View. That's what they wanted to do. That's what made them happy.   And, consistent with Crescent Manor policy of respecting individual differences, no one had a problem with it.

Soon, too soon, the van was back and it was time to get ready to go.  By this time, I  had become just another member of the gang. Though my official  job was lifeguard and general helper, I swam, ate, and horsed around just like everybody else. I got to know these Crescent Manor Residents.

I especially had fun with Joanne. She has difficulty walking and could only sit in a chair outside and take it all in.  When she sat in the chair, I put on my meanest face and went over to her. Hands on my hips, I told her that she was sitting in my chair and that I wanted it back.

She laughed. Never having set eyes on me, she knew immediately that I was putting her on and she thought it was funny. So did the others. They all sensed that I am a mush.

Serious problems may have brought them to Crescent Manor, but  this crew's awareness of others and their sense of humor are alive and well. In the photo, Ruby and Karen help Joanne walk.

We couldn't leave without a group photo.  As the next oldest there, 72 to Tony's 73, I got to stand in the middle of the group with Tony. I had been kidding him nonstop about his age and he had been throwing it right back at me. No blows were thrown, unless you want to count our arms around each other in the photo.
So long and keep moving. 

P.S. Because I don't know any better, I challenged the van driver to a race to the end of the road, probably a half a football field. I took off as fast as my legs could carry me. The driver made sure I won. I raised my arms in victory as the van passed, full of laughing and cheering residents. True!


At August 04, 2010 7:13 PM, Blogger johgee said...

Great article.
You have touched upon a good topic.
keep it up young man.
hope you feel better. Joge

At August 05, 2010 8:23 PM, Anonymous Rod Hinkle said...

Excellent job in your blog and your book for your son. I tried to return a message on your blog but for some reason, it didn't work perhaps because of the Google requirements. I was TEA C 1 (61-63) and was posted to Mzumbe SS in Morogoro, Tanganyika. (Roommate -Jerry Schieber) I returned in 65 as a Peace Corps Staffer as the Peace Corps was staffing Upper Primary schools in Tanzania. I'll try again and wish my computer skills were as good as yours to create such an impressive blog and book. Rod Hinkle

At August 17, 2010 2:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Blog!!!!

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