Something Good About Nursing Homes: Gary M. Riffe’s Story

This positive story about long term care is from the perspective of a nursing home administrator/president. If you’d like to add your own good news, please use the comments box at the bottom of the post, or for a possible featured blog post, send me an email using the Contact Me button on the top right corner of the blog. Enjoy!
“Having been a part of the Long Term Care profession for more than 38 years, I find myself always being defensive. You are right in the fact that most of the good news in nursing homes never gets printed, just those about the bad things. I would love to share a couple of projects we are doing in our facility which have been wonderful for those residents entrusted into our care.
One is a writing class. It started out with residents writing/telling something about their first day at school, or their first car, things of that nature. It was fun to hear them share. We had some assistance from our activity staff and a couple of volunteers. We collected these short stories and printed them into a book and invited their friends and family to come to a reading. Most of the residents read their story. It was a blast to watch a gentleman with Alzheimer’s disease read flawlessly as if he were giving a presentation to the city committee. He never missed a beat. Yet when he had finished and a couple of others shared their story, he asked when his turn would be. To assist in our second book, we asked the our local college if any English majors would be interested in coming and assisting the resident in writing their stories. We were able to have two students come for a semester and would record the story and help the resident in getting it ready for print. We have printed 3 booklets of short stories and each resident and family member receives a copy.
Our second project was a dream of one of our staff members and it’s like the “Make a Wish” program. It’s called “Day Dreams.” We have a dream team made up of staff, who then volunteer their time in helping residents have a wish come true. These dreams can vary from going a local restaurant with their loved ones, to flying model airplanes, to traveling out to their homestead, to riding in a parade in a convertible with the top down. There is no cost to the resident of this experience. We have been able to receive some donations to help cover the costs. We have been able to do over 45 dreams since 2005. These are only a few of those dreams.
I share these with you to encourage others, that being a Caregiver in a Nursing Home is a wonderful profession. It is not for everyone, but most of those caring for others are angels.
Thanks for stating there is a lot of good going on in Nursing Homes.”
Gary M. Riffe, CNHA, Fellow
Hi-Acres Manor Nursing Center
Jamestown, ND

3 thoughts on “Something Good About Nursing Homes: Gary M. Riffe’s Story”

  1. Writing is also a great intergenerational project for students and nursing home residents. A former school principal, I enjoyed witnessing our fourth graders improve their own writing by interviewing nursing home residents and writing their biographies. These biographies were copied in multiple booklets so each resident had a copy of the other participants' life stories. It is so important to honor the histories of residents because so much about them is often not known by fellow residents and staff.

    This form of learning is called service learning, a teaching and learning approach that connects learning with meeting community needs. Our school research on this annual writing project indicated that students wrote better biographies and greatly decreased their negative stereotypes about the elderly as a direct result of their involvement with the nursing home residents. The residents looked forward to having the students visit them, and they especially enjoyed sharing their stories with students and others who read their booklets. Nursing homes are ideal places for students to visit and share what they are learning in school. This is a win-win project for everyone involved.

  2. Sue, I agree, a team approach creates wonderful opportunities for collaboration among staff, residents, families, and the community.

    FSP, Thanks for sharing about the writing project from the children's perspective. From a psychological perspective, a multigenerational project like this addresses Erikson's life phases of Generativity vs Stagnation by providing an opportunity for seniors to teach younger people, and Integrity vs Despair, as they are able to see they're doing something meaningful.


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