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Stories from the Field

A Story of Choice

Julia Ferrera - Palm Garden of Ocala
07/01/2010

Culture Change was and is a much needed progression in the day to day duties and care we give as healthcare professionals. Maintaining independence is more than just being able to dress, groom, and toilet yourself, but also being able to make choices about how,when, and how much. Empowering with choice is the key, but empowering to WHAT? Empower is defined as- "to invest with power or official authority." This is more of a reminder than a mantra. Our members are already the official authority for themselves, although sometimes they forget or become complacent with routine. Since our Administrator and Director of Nursing rolled out Culture Change, the results have been tremendous. I, as well as the rest of my team, noticed a difference overall in LTC population. They smile more, they are more relaxed, they eat better, they sleep better, they laugh more, and they have a feeling of warmth, security, and trust. All of these things our members experience, I believe, are a direct result of giving back the ability to make choices instead of telling them, "It's time to eat. It's time to sleep. It's your shower time. Get up now!" That's all very militant. When I am 90 years old, NOBODY BETTER TELL ME WHAT TO DO AND WHEN TO DO IT. In this story I'm going to tell you, it is evident how our change at Palm Garden of Ocala truly brings LTC out of the darkness and into the forefront of longterm living !

My name is Julia Ferrera, C.N.A, Quality of Life Aide, and Neighborhood Leader. One day as I was walking from room to room inviting members to enjoy the whirlpool in our day spa, I came across Irene. Irene was face down in a newspaper. She was half asleep on the over-the-bed table and drooling on herself. I said, "Irene,hi,how are you?" She mumbled nondescript words. I took the table away, crouched down to make eye contact, and said, "Would you like to come to the spa?" She replies, "No, I have to stay here with the TV." I knew this was going to take some work I explained to her that it was okay to leave the room, TV, and bed, because they would all be here when she came back. She would not go. For 3 days, I asked Irene to come with me, and each time she told me"No." She expressed, "What is the point of it?" I told her to enjoy yourself. On the 4th day, I tried something else. "good morning, Irene," I said, "I wonder if you'll come look at something with me. I want to show you something" She agreed and off we went to the Garden Spa. As I opened the door, her mouth dropped open. "Oh my God, will you look at this place. I never knew." The serene paintings of gentle willow trees and white roses and a patio landscape going into a muffled garden were all around her and she could not believe her eyes. I showed her around the different areas where she could get a manicure, a massage, a pedicure, and then the coup degres, the tub. She asked, "I can get in there?" "Yes," I answered. "Would you like to try it?" I asked. "Would I!" she exclaimed. The whole time we were in there she was so happy and relaxed and literally came to life before my very eyes. "This is the life of luxury. I can't believe I can't believe a thing like this exists in this kind of place. Who knew, who knew?" She felt like a million dollar baby. Irene was in awe. It really made an impact on me. At that point, I realized that I was doing more than just giving a bath to a "patient." She and I bonded and she would go anytime I made the time for her. At the end of her first spa experience, she looked up at me and told me with tears in her eyes, "Thank you so much. You have restored my faith. I had really given up all hope. Thank you. I never knew I could have this in a place like this." I was overwhelmed with her love and gratitude and also began to cry. We were laughing at ourselves and hugging.
 
For that moment, we shared a free flowing exchange of love and friendship. Each week I would visit Irene and take her to this special, almost magical place, and help her enjoy her life a little more. When Irene's debilitating illness prevented her from standing and walking, I would share my time with her in other ways. When ever she'd see me, she'd always give me a smile. Hearing her statement "a place like this" really made me think about how the outside world thinks of longterm care and SNF's. There really is a stigma that it's Cuckoo's Nest-ish." Unfortunately, it has been this way since the 1800's. Even with changes made along the way, we as a healthcare providing community have a long way to go, not only by changing policy and procedure, but also changing hearts and minds. - Julia Ferrera, Palm Garden of Ocala in Florida



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