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Unsung Heroes

As I go about running a care home for the elderly and interact with a lot of different people, one thing I am always grateful for is the blessing of being able to have a front row seat to this thing called LIFE.

Through the various residents and their families and friends, our team certainly gets to witness first-hand so many incredible things -- one of which involves how people choose to show up for one another. We get to see different and sometimes non-conventional ways people express their love and concern. Being able to bear witness to these special moments and interactions has been wonderful, as it almost always reminds us that we do not go through life alone.

With all that is currently going on in the world with Covid, the effects of the climate crisis, natural disasters and all the turmoil going on in various countries, our blog today will focus on the good that we have been seeing. Sometimes when there's so much heaviness and heartache all around, it's difficult to identify beautiful and precious moments that occur amongst everyday people.

When a resident moves into our home, they are typically supported by the "usual suspects": a spouse, their adult children, grandchildren and/or their siblings. Our team has come to expect the daily or weekly visits or phone calls from the aforementioned bunch. But there are also another set of characters that sometimes gets overlooked or unnoticed. They show up for their loved ones in unexpected and unique ways.

For example, we have known a handful of sons-in-law that have really gone above and beyond in making sure their mother-in-law's emotional and physical needs were being met. They broke free from the stereotypical "tense relationship" that can sometimes form between a person and their in-laws. We have had sons-in-law visit daily (more than their wives in some cases) just to bring donut holes and spend 10-15 minutes just chatting and hanging out. We have had a son-in-law bring some lightweight dumbbells and go through strengthening exercises with their mother-in-law on a bi-weekly basis because he was concerned she was losing too much muscle mass. We have even had sons-in-law take their mother-in-law out for a mid-week lunch date. It's touching to see these interactions and it's even more moving to know and appreciate that this small act is their way of supporting their mother-in-law, but also supporting their spouse. Too often, the son/daughter of an aging person can feel over-burdened or overwhelmed by what it takes to care for someone who's health is declining. Having your spouse share the load is incredibly helpful and is how supporting your spouse "through good times and bad" or "in sickness and in health" can look like.

Then there are the loyal best friends that love to check in on their "BFF". I will never forget the best friend of one of our residents who would call daily at the same time without fail, just to say hello and let our resident know she was on her mind. Even as her Alzheimer's disease progressed to the point where she could no longer speak, her friend would still call her just so our resident could hear her voice and know that she wouldn't forget about her, even if her friend's memories were slowly but surely dissipating. We have also had friends who set up card games, manicures and hair salon appointments to have a girl's day out and also friends that advocate more strongly than family members when it comes to their daily care or interactions with doctors and nurses.

We also get a steady stream of cards and letters from our residents' family and friends. I find it so incredibly sweet that the son of one of our residents sends his father weekly postcards letting him know what he had for breakfast that particular morning. Every postcard begins with "Hi Dad! I'm sitting here thinking about you and wanted to share what I had for breakfast today ..." We also get the sweetest video messages or texts to pass on to our residents from families near or far wanting to take advantage of how technology can keep them connected.

It's also been wonderful to see the close-knit bonds between a grandparent and their grandchild. We have a grandson who spends hours with his grandmother just talking about their memories of him growing up and all their adventures. We have a granddaughter who regularly visits her non-verbal grandmother with Alzheimer's disease and spends the entire visit just holding her grandmother's hand, expressing her love without uttering a single word. Or a grandson who comes and plays his guitar for his grandmother and serenades her with all her favorite tunes.

There have also been some incredible neighbors who have come to visit over the years. Having lived next door to one of our residents for over 30 years, they formed quite the bond. This neighbor has been the support system of our resident through all of life's ups and downs, especially through the death of both of their spouses. They became one another's life advocate and staunchest ally. They are proof that no matter what, we are never alone as we go through life.

Our home has also been blessed with so many amazing volunteers within the community. Kids of all ages, high school and college students and even military veterans have graced our home with their time, talent and treasures. Our residents loved getting cards, Christmas carols or just the blessing of time to hang out and play board games or be taken out for a walk. The kindness they have received from complete strangers has been so life-giving to our seniors.

The different church groups that have come to the house to help provide some spiritual nourishment has also been such a welcomed blessing. With a lot of our residents being home-bound and unable to attend a mass or church service on their own, having "church" come to them has been so wonderful. We are grateful for the ways people have come to minister to our residents and help them stay connected to their faith.

So, with all that's going on in the world, let's not forget that small acts of love and kindness do, indeed make a difference. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed with all that's going on and feel like there's no way you could ever make a difference or a dent in trying to right all that is wrong. Try to simply take a step back and see what little ripples of love you can create for your loved ones, for strangers and for the vulnerable in our community. If we each do our little part, all the goodness and positive energy that's borne out of those acts will help create a more loving and caring world. Collectively and consistently, we can all do our part on our side of street and beyond.

Cheers to all the unsung heroes who have made and continue to make such a profound difference in someone's life! May we always have the eyes to see, the ears to hear and the hearts to love and look for ways to make an impact. It's never too late or too little of an act to express kindness to others and is a superpower that is often underutilized and sometimes forgotten. Life is short - let's all do our part in creating the world in which we all want to live.

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