homepage logo

Repnow: The benefits of change

By Staff | Mar 27, 2015

Our family recently celebrated my mom’s 95th birthday at the Benedictine Living Center in Garrison. As we were growing up, my mom took time to celebrate our birthdays. She let us have one birthday party where we were able to invite a host of our pals; otherwise, birthdays were family affairs. She made special cakes; we had the cutout lions, sailboats, butterflies – decorated with tinted coconut. From time to time, she would create her own idea like when my brother Oliver had his party with his friends. She baked several small cakes in mini loaf pans and all in attendance were invited to decorate their cake as part of the train which ended up being as long as our picnic table. I decorated a cake which became an open boxcar filled with candies that looked like oranges and used string licorice to create designs and a ladder on the sides of the cake.

Birthday parties are the perfect time to put the icing on the cake. Here on a field of smooth twilled buttercream, the family can gather and celebrate the fact that another year has been added to someone’s life. Mom’s 95th party was held with our family attending, which included our aunts and cousins. We had originally planned to celebrate her birthday in February but plans had to be changed, and we moved it to March. Since her birth flower is a violet, that became the theme and color of her party. Who does not like violets? They are as easy to get along with as a chocolate bar. Their heart-shaped leaves and richness of tone make them instantly memorable.

For years we have had a violet theme on our front porch in Rugby, so it was easy to gather up purple glassware and even violet fabric which decorated the room. We often play games at family birthday parties, and one of the most common is a list of questions which relates to the birthday number being celebrat-

ed. For Lydia’s recently celebrated 10th birthday, we made a list of 10 questions relating to her and then the family took turns answering them. This is a great way to discover and also share things about the person being honored. We did this last year with mom – 94 questions about her. We discovered her favorite cafe after all this time was the Park Inn in Underwood!

To change things up a bit this year, a board game – complete with violets and pictures of Mom’s life – was the avenue of entertainment, featuring things such as “mom learns to drive with Dad as her teacher – shift back two spaces” or “family wedding gift opening – skip a turn.” The game was played with one die and colorful buttons from her button box. It was a timeline of her life, and her grandchildren especially enjoyed it. A board game, family

history, colorful artwork all rolled into one ensemble they could all take home and play again.

My mom moved into a nursing home five years ago. Her vision was changing as well as her balance. She had a serious fall at home. Thus it was time for a change. It was a difficult time for me to see her leave our family home, but I realized quickly this is the best place for her. She is content, well taken care of, and each time I visit her, I feel blessed.

She relocated to the nursing home with grace; perhaps it is because she was a nurse or that she has the wisdom to accept change – realizing it is for the better. This has been an amazing, learning and worthwhile journey for me. It started by me realizing that my role as her son was changing. It was now my time to take care of her. When she first entered the home and we met with the staff, they asked if we had any special requests. I asked of them that when I visit Mom, she be dressed as I liked. So for the first few weeks she was often changed into an outfit I liked seeing her in and the staff was most gracious. This was not only comforting to me, but also they learned now my mom preferred to be dressed.

Reading is an easy way to connect, and I now regularly take time to read to Mom; after all, she read countless books to me. I also realized that mom needed to be touched by her family. It was for this reason I started giving her facials and applying her makeup. We both have flourished from this, and I repeatedly joke with her that once I have her first eyebrow done, “95” has left the room; second eyebrow done, “94” is gone. By the time I apply her lipstick, she is riding back at “80.” I mentioned to her if she wants more, it will have to be with Botox, and I am not sure if Medicare will cover that! My visit always includes one small treat that Mom enjoys such as homemade applesauce, special nuts or hand dripped coffee. I feel blessed that my siblings take an interest in Mom and visit her often. As our mother, she treated us all as individuals and this aided in forming our character, which is now returned to her in five arrays.

Here is a list of things I have observed and learned from my parents moving into a nursing home:

– Is the staff kind, and do they show respect to the residents?

– Are most residents dressed for the season, their comfort and time of day?

– Does the staff know the residents by name?

– Have you seen a staff member smile or laugh with your loved one?

– Do you see the administration interacting with residents, and do they make attempt to know you?

– Are activities planned from time to time for the residents and their families?

– Are their outdoor and indoor areas accessible for resident use with family?

– Is the dining room attractive and the food presented well?

– Take time to listen to your loved one and engage them with your world.

– Encourage reminiscing and communicate often by phone, writing or visits

– Attend church service with them and share a gift of music

Pray for them and with them.

– Remember them on anniversaries, birthdays and holidays

When you visit, ask yourself “How would I like to be treated if I were the resident here?”




This salad was served at mom’s party. It is easy to prepare, it can be done ahead, plus it tastes wonderful! I have yet to serve this salad without someone asking for the recipe.

Marinate overnight:

12 oz cooked vermicelli (cut through in bowl for smaller pieces)

1 tablespoon Accent

1 1/2 tablespoons season salt

3 tablespoons lemon juice

4 tablespoons salad oil

Next day, add:

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 chopped medium onion

1/2 cup chopped green peppers

1 small can chopped black olives

1 small jar pimento

Before serving, toss with 1 1/2 cups Hellman’s mayonnaise. This salad keeps very well, and I prefer to use red, yellow and orange peppers, which add extra color.

Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page