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Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Flower Room

“I want to warn you,” Ms. Gibson’s daughter, Kelli said, cocking her eyebrow. “Mom doesn’t want to be here.”
I remained calm, although I wanted to shake my head. I managed to keep my composure. “Sure, I understand,” I said, nodding.
Ms. Gibson had just arrived from the hospital, after having foot surgery due to a fracture. While Ms. Gibson was being accommodated in her room, I led Kelli to my office to gather protocolary admission information and complete pertaining paperwork.
I still wanted to tell Kelli she wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know. Most, if not all, of the new residents do not want to be in a nursing home, even if it’s for a short stay. But she quickly continued talking:
“She will be grumpy and will probably try convincing you all to let her go home.” Kelli’s eyes were wide open, and her hand gestures seemed to add assertiveness to her words.  “She lives alone and I can’t be there every day.”
“Kelli, we will monitor your mother’s adjustment to the facility routine, encouraging her to complete her rehabilitation before she returns to her home.”  
I empathized with Kelli. It’s not easy to tell our parents what to do, even if it’s for the best. Parents want to remain in control, and don’t seem to accept well the switch of roles in their aging years. 
I checked on Ms. Gibson a few times that week. She often kept to herself, preferring to stay in her room—except when going to therapy. 
On a Monday morning, I decided to visit with Ms. Gibson. As I walked in her room, I was surprised at the change in the room decor that obviously occurred during the weekend. Multiple plants—mainly flower plants—had been carefully and strategically arranged in the room, beautifully displayed on delicate wooden plant stands.  The place had a unique touch, a welcoming feeling embraced me as I entered. 
Ms. Gibson was sitting in a recliner, looking out the window. I spotted a beautiful view of the court yard under a sunny day.  Ms. Gibson seemed relaxed.
She looked at me, and flashed a timid smile.
“Ms. Gibson, your room looks great.” I brushed my fingers along the plants in front of me. “I like your beautiful plants and flowers.”  I bent down to smell red roses and purple orchids. Their scents and colors were pleasantly intoxicating, simply indulging. 
I never saw a room in a nursing home with as many plants and flowers as Ms. Gibson’s room.  There was no doubt someone had taken daily care of them. 
“Thank you.” A  gentle smile lit up Ms. Gibson’s face, as if the sunshine had suddenly reflected on her cheeks. 
Ms. Gibson began telling me about each one of her plants, and how much she enjoyed gardening. She then referred to her home, a four-bedroom log home located in a rural area, built by her husband. Since his passing more than ten years ago, she had meticulously taken care of her home, and especially of her garden.  It was a place of solace and fulfillment for her. 
I understood why she wouldn’t want to be away from home. And I also understood what the plants and flowers in the room meant to her. This was her temporary home.  
Ms. Gibson eventually became more acquainted with staff. She seemed to adjust well to the routine of therapy and care. My visits with her became more frequent than planned. I enjoyed listening to her life stories. 
I mused sometimes about what home really means. 

Home is where your heart is

I have heard that quote many times. Ms. Gibson’s heart was there—for the time being. Rather than me trying to help the resident adjust to her environment, the opposite occurred. Ms. Gibson made me feel comfortable, and welcomed me to her place—her home away from home. 
Ms. Gibson finally recovered, and was ready to return to her house. She was happy, but showed no rush in leaving. She took her time saying her goodbyes to other residents she had made friends with, and with the staff she had bonded with. 
I returned to the the room days later, after Ms. Gibson had left. I felt the void. The room was not the same. I missed the plants and flowers, and the delightful conversations with my resident. 
“Is this room available?” My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the gentle voice of a petite elderly woman, standing by the door, holding a walker.  
“This is Ms. Floyd and she wanted to tour the facility,” my co-worker Melba explained, standing behind the visitor.
“I came to check out the place,” the elderly woman said. “I will have surgery in a couple days and I want to come here for therapy until I get stable enough to return to my apartment.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I flashed a broad smile. “This room is available, just waiting for you.”


Thanks to Tony Sexton at  Senior Advocacy  for inspiring me to write this story, after reading his insightful post on what "Home" means for nursing home residents.

“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” 
-- Maya Angelou.


Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Doris,

A remarkable story, as usual. Did visit with Tony as well.
So sad to read about your car. Luckily you were not hurt seriously. We had an encounter over a month ago with our Infinity FX35. I was at the wheel and just outside of the gate from visiting our best friends. A deer crossed the road and brushed into the side of the car, on the driver's side. For two weeks the car was in repair but got done very well. Not such severe damages, not life-threatening for the deer I guess, but anyway for about $ 5,000.00 had to be done. Thanks to great service from our State Farm Insurance! We searched for the deer but no trace of it. It made me feel bad for having hurt an animal...

Have a great weekend!
Lots of love,



This was a most heart warming story, As we get older we value things in our lives and when one has to go into hospital or a nursing home it helps the healing process to have familiar things.

Hope you are ok, I glanced at the above comment and read about your accident, thank goodness you were not seriously hurt although I suspect very shocked.

Take care.

Retired Knitter said...

My mom has had to nursing home/rehab experiences in the last 7 months. The first one was successful. She recovered well, but she never connected with the residents. She never saw the place as more than an extenion of the hospital. It was a catalac of a facility with a long history of care. The second experience didn't go as well as the first. It was a brand new facility, pretty but had many start up problems. Mom was sicker that time and was scheduled to be there for a month. After 2 weeks I discharged her to my home because she became depressed, lost interest in everything and stopped eating. She did recover at home.

For my mom, home is my house. I pray that she can always stay here. I worry that her care might become more than we can handle. To transfer her "home" to somewhere that will never be home for her is too cruel to think about.

Great post.

Linda Myers said...

What a lovely woman, to create a garden room during her rehab!

Big Mark 243 said...

I had to snag the Maya Angelou quote. When my turn comes I hope that I have the same kind of grace and acceptance that Mrs. Gibson showed in her Convalescence.

Heather Rae said...

This is just beautiful. What a touching story. I love coming here and reading your stories. What a wealth of treasures.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Doris .. how wonderful for Ms Gibson .. almost a pity she had to go home in some ways .. I bet she was lonelier.

A room full of plants that would be gorgeous to do .. I've always had fresh flowers for Mum and decorated her room walls (the bits she could see) and put posters on the ceiling so she had things to look at ... but now she seems content with 'peaceful white' and shadows flickering from the branches and leaves outside. We had to move rooms a few times .. probably a good thing in the long run.

Just hope all was well til her time came .. and then Ms Floyd turning up .. to fill the void.

Great post and story - thanks so much .. cheers for now .. Hilary

डा0 हेमंत कुमार ♠ Dr Hemant Kumar said...

Very touching and emotional..story..but your way of presentation is very attractive and appriciable.
Best wishes.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

What a beautiful, inspiring story, Doris! I was touched by this woman's adaptation in making her room her home.

Arkansas Patti said...

I do love to read your stories for they always seem to illustrate the very best of human nature.
I think if more patients tried to bring a bit of their home to "the Home" the adjustment would be easier.

Symphony of Love said...

Hi Doris, thank you for the wonderful read and thank you for dropping by my blog and taking time to comment. I am glad that you are alright from your accident.

A Cuban In London said...

It's because of people like you that my faith in human beings rarely quavers. I have my moments of despair like everyone else (9/11; 7/7, Iraq, the current press scandal in the UK) but on the whole I trust my fellow humans to do the right thing and to act with respect and dignity towards others. Coincidentally, my post today is about caring for the elderly and what people think about assisted suicide.

Many thanks for your column.

Greetings from London.

K. Tree said...

When I was going through CNA school, the teacher told us that our residents may forget everything else, but they never forget that they want to go home.

New subject. Sorry about your car, but I'm glad you weren't seriously hurt.

Linda said...

What wonderful coping skills this resident has and a happy ending - great story.

Deb Shucka said...

Such a wonderful story about the power of home, and a clear reminder how it's possible to offer comfort in the simplest of ways.

I love your ability to connect with the dignity in the people whose lives you impact.

John Paul McKinney said...

This is a great story. In "The Death of the Hired Man," Robert Frost said, "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." Seems to fit. Thanks for the great post

Amrita said...

This is flower therapy

Mind Of Mine said...

This a very beautiful story. I am new to your blog and I can't wait to read more.

John Cowart said...

Hi Doris,

Thank you for the kind words you left in the comment section of my blog about the refrigerator earlier this week.

My, but you have a challenging career. Must be heart-rending as well as rewarding.

I'm afraid I'll be one of those patients who "don’t seem to accept well the switch of roles in their aging years".

I know it's shallow, but my possessions do define me to a certain extent. My books, my model ships, my scissors--at home, I can lay hands on each thing without looking. Any new place, no matter how nice, would drive me nuts.

And my wife and I used to travel all over the country when we were younger. (I'm 72 now).

In April, my best friend, Barbara White, died in a hospice facility, one of the most pleasant in Florida. Even so, she took an armload of her favorite books to keep contact although she could hardly read them any more.

I kept a record of her final days off and on in my blog/diary since December 2nd in the sidebar archives if you might be interested.

Actually, that record started earlier at her cancer diagnosis... a funny thing is that the search term "musk ox" brings up an entry about our family's caring for her.

Anyhow, I admire you for what you do to aid your patients. They are blessed to have your tender heart at hand.

John Cowart

Tony Sexton, Site Administrator said...

Hi Doris,

For some reason as I read your words “temporary home,” it triggered memories of an old bluegrass song by the Carter Family titled “I can’t feel at Home in this world anymore.” I am of the persuasion that truly wherever we may call home is but temporary, and as the words to this song say “I’m just a-passing through!!”

This world is not my home, I'm just a-passing through
My treasures and my hopes are all beyond the blue;
Where many Christian children have gone on before,
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.
Oh Lord, You know I have no friend but you
If Heaven's not my home, Oh Lord what would I do?
Angels have taken me to Heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.
Over in glory land there is no dying there
The saints are shouting Vict'ry and singing everywhere.
I hear the voice of Nell that I have heard before
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.

All my best,
-tony sexton

Mary Aalgaard said...

I love the visuals in this piece and how you learned from the patient how to make a small room feel like home. Of course, she needed to come to acceptance of her space and place in it, then she could bring pieces of herself into her environment. She must have left a peaceful aurora which welcomed the new resident.

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