Small Town, Big Blessings

Sometimes there are no words that can describe how we feel as caregivers. And other times, our patients and their families can put the feelings on paper and bring tears to our eyes. ❤️ ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This Letter to the Editor was written by Linda Borror, daughter of Bessie DeWerff, and submitted by her family. It was published by The Ellinwood Leader on February 20, 2020.

Small towns are frequently subjected to a condescending critique from those who live in larger or more “modern” towns. Truth be known, when it was time to evaluate what mother needed and choose the best place to meet those needs, our family, too, gave thought and consideration to choosing something in a larger town with newer and maybe nicer facilities which often insinuates better care. It was decided she would probably prefer the brick streets of Ellinwood; sitting in a room where she could look out and see familiar territory; where the few remaining friends of her age group and friends from church could drop in. When mother entered Swing Bed Care at Ellinwood Hospital and Clinic, I was not acquainted with most of the people to whom her care was entrusted.

Did we have concerns about the care she would receive? Of course! And in all honesty we started out watching with some pretty critical eyes. What changed? Unbeknownst to us, the first contact (CNA) made a huge impression. In fact that CNA became the plumb line by which all things were measured. If she said it was a good thing, mother accepted it as a good thing. The room was bright and cheerful with a full south view of 6th street where she could watch the children walking, riding bikes, or driving back and forth to school. She could watch the near-by day care children walking hand in hand around the block. From her chair she could look across the street and measure the strength of the wind by watching the movement of the pampas grass. Or she could look to the right and see the traffic of the Main Street intersection. That became a way to get her bearings and know where she was in relation to other places. And from her chair she could see the hall and all of the passing people (who waved, sometimes stepped in to introduce themselves) and of course the staff who ALWAYS had a smile and word.

After only a few meals, one of the cooks sought me out to point out that a lot of food was left uneaten and wanted to know how she could help improve the diet. I explained the need for a softer diet and I have never seen more care and concern over eating habits. They found out mother likes bread with every meal and on every tray was a fresh slice of bread, butter and jelly.

At the resident Christmas party patients received gifts from staff and visitors, food, and drink, and mother thought she was the honored guest. I think each of the others felt the same. For Thanksgiving and Christmas her family of almost 40 came to the hospital where they had a grand potluck and sat around the tables in the Education Room. It was the perfect setting and she was delighted that she could sit, see, and talk with each family member.

Each caregiver (RN, LPN, CNA, housekeeping) always entered the room with a pleasant smile and attitude. The attentiveness to detail was unsurpassed by anything I have ever seen in a larger facility. Sometimes when a patient / resident pushes their call button there is a very long wait period. Mother rarely used her call button. They were so attentive that she rarely had the need. They were in her room frequently enough that she could just ask them when they were already there, if she had a need.

For just over two months, mother lived comfortably. And then her condition deteriorated. She was confined to her bed the final 9 days. One of her children was at her bedside around the clock and never have we witnessed such tender loving care from a medical staff. Even as we came down to the time she no longer responded, the same high quality of care continued. They came in pairs throughout the night to reposition, give oral care, etc. I saw a CNA walk in, speak gently, touch her tenderly. And when finished, I saw her lean in, kiss her head, and speak love. The staff were concerned for each of her children at her bedside wanting to tend to our needs and make sure we had food and drink. There was such tenderness and respect for our mother. We knew that if we took a break she would not be left alone or ignored. And finally, hospice was called. I / we knew of hospice as an entity but were in for such a pleasant realization of the extent of their role. When it was over and we expressed these sentiments to the staff the first comment was, “Welcome to Mayberry RFD.”

This was not unique to our mother. We noted tender and thorough physical care was the norm for every patient / resident. I am sharing this because I want the community to take note that we indeed are a small community hanging on to our small hospital. There are so many government regulations of which most of us are not aware that currently affect and will continue to dictate how long we survive. I hope to raise the awareness not only of what we already have, but also how we can and must help to assure we have not just a facility but a quality care facility. Quality care in terms of the Mayberry RFD type. The family care approach where everybody knows your name, or at least someone in your family. The kind of care that patients receive at Ellinwood Hospital and Clinic. It is a “Howdy Neighbor” environment that is worth more than can be expressed in dollar figures.

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