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To Harrison Senior Living Staff,

May I state at the beginning that I am not including names of staff for fear I would miss a name, not know a name, or write the wrong name. I was not there twenty-four seven, and there were many interactions of which I was unaware. All I know is that my mother became a better person because of the staff care and support.

When my mother came to live at HSL, I was a little concerned. She could be somewhat cranky, especially as she became more familiar with a person. My father, who arrived a month earlier, was not an issue, because as long as someone would listen to him talk, he was a happy guy. And indeed, he was “an easy to get along with fellow” (for the most part). After my father’s death, I kept waiting for my mother to act out. I assumed, after she got over the shock of my father’s death, she would get irritable with the HSL staff.

But to my surprise, my mother did not get grumpy, except, of course, when she was supposed to get out of bed. Getting out of bed was not a happy time no matter what one did and it was not a new behavior. When the staff would come into her room, they would greet her and she would smile. Indeed she would smile. And if she did not smile, they would continue to talk with her, and kid with her until she did smile (at least on most occasions). My mother would say she was “wonderful” in a sarcastic tone when she was not feeling well. One staff member would not leave the room until my mother responded to her question of “How are you today?” with “wonderful”. It became an inside joke between them. Sometimes I would be sitting with her and a staff member would come in, talk to her, do whatever they needed to do, and she, of course, would smile. When they left the room, I might say to my mother that they are really nice. My mother would always say yes. I kept waiting for the “old” usual grumpy-ness. It never ever happened.

When I would come in to visit, I was taken back by how friendly and helpful the people were. This was not only the nursing staff, but the ladies at the front desk, the ladies who were in charge of making sure the place was neat and tidy, the ladies who ran the activities, the gentlemen who took care of the maintenance, the gentleman who ferried the residents to where they had to go, and the wait staff.

Everyone I was in contact with acted as if they really liked what they were doing, and they really liked the residents. They did an outstanding job. I remember at management seminars, how we were told, it is everyone’s job to take care of the workplace. One should be willing to help out anywhere and anyway to make things better. It was a great idea, but few bought into it. At HSL, everyone bought into it. It did not matter what their job description said, if it needed doing, it was done.

My mother would be frightened at times, especially in the evening. In the beginning, she would try to barricade herself in her room at night. She could not because a small trash can could not keep anyone from coming in her room. The staff was very kind to her about that. Each night she would put the trash can in front of the door, and when the staff did rounds they would quietly move it aside so as not to wake her. For her whole life, my mother would get the “shakes” as she called it, when she was afraid. A staff member would come in and sit with her until she was no longer afraid. That was so important to her, and to me.

The staff cared how my mother looked. They wanted her to look the best she could. At this point in her life, either the dementia and/or the back pain prevented her from making sure her hair and clothes looked good. I would come in and find a member of the staff curling her hair, and adding jewelry (if it was a “happy hour” day). They would also make sure I knew it was time for a hair appointment. So I would go to the front desk and ask if she could have her hair done. They knew, without me telling them, that she was NOT a morning person, so it was scheduled later in the day. And if on that day, she was not able to leave her room, the appointment was re-scheduled without a word from me.

When she was more mobile I would take her down to lunch. I would stand by the door and encourage her to go into the dining room. As soon as one of the wait staff saw her, they would call her name and escort her to her table. They asked how she was and she would smile, because she knew she was being taken care of by people who liked her.

If I was moving her from one apartment to another; or moving things in or out, I would find a dolly outside the door to make my job easier. And I would find that one of the gentlemen would soon help me move the furniture to where it had to go. I never had to ask. They were there, and they actually seemed to like to help.

On the day she died, she smiled when people came in to say their goodbyes. One person came in to say goodbye on her vacation. Some came from other floors. I believe the people at HSL encouraged my mother to be the person she had never been. Perhaps she was overshadowed by my father. I think it was the individuals she came in contact with at HSL, who really cared for her, listened to her, and let her know they cared for her, that allowed her to be the best she could be at this time of her life. For that I will be forever grateful to the people at Harrison Senior Living.
-Sonni W.

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