Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Sharing of Christmas with Seniors

Christmas was a bit different for me this year.

I wound up working on Christmas Eve day and on Christmas Day.  We gave out presents and cards to 175 residents on Christmas. I walked through the halls and from room to room jingling a wreath made up of bells while saying Ho Ho Ho and spreading Christmas Cheer.

The personal care home I work at gives residents presents on Christmas Day. Some small presents are purchased by the Recreation department with the hope of giving residents something they will be able to use and enjoy in addition to the gifts that they might receive from family and friends. Other residents' gifts are purchased for the seniors through a program called "Be a Santa to a Senior".
Seniors who are impoverished and/or isolated are referred to the program by health care professionals and agencies serving older adults.They are asked what it is they need or would like and these wishes are filled through kind donations from the community.

We also gave out some cards made by children. I volunteer with Girl Guides of Canada as a leader and work with girls 12 to 15 years of age. Last year the girls signed about 100 cards for me to take to work and give the seniors as a service project.  The girls planned in September of this year to spend one of the evenings in December doing something for seniors. I was so proud to have the girls request on their own to do such a kind thing.  They spent a meeting crafting cards and they made centerpieces for a tea party at my work. The girls and Guiders loved the evening of learning new crafts while doing something nice for others.

I think it is wonderful that the girls at this young age can reach out to others in their community. They grow into the kind of wonderful people, like the participants in the Be a Santa to a Senior Program, who continue to be willing to reach out and brighten the holidays for someone they have never met.

Thank-you to all the kind, giving people who brought Christmas Joy to the seniors and others in need in their communities.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Power of Baking

I have such strong memories of baking with my mom when I was little. Christmas was a massive push to produce huge quantities of cookies, tarts, Christmas cakes and wonderful bars and treats.  I really don't know why we needed so much when the only ones sharing goodies over the holidays were my mom, dad and me plus an uncle and aunt. I loved the excitement of baking and holiday cooking and I loved that special time with my busy working mom.

My Mother-in-law was famous for her baking. Her style was to produce tons of stuff all year round and always had the freezer stuffed. Company over? She just pulled some margarine container of cookies from the freezer. Come Christmas time she dipped into all the containers and produced lovely trays to put on her dining room table or to take to the various charity groups she supported.

When our kids were growing up we tried to bring all of the above into our traditions and added in treats and baking that were particular to our family. I took courses in making fancy cakes and I considered baking to be my hobby. I collected cookbooks, and I have more shapes of baking pans and fun tools than one would believe possible. They make me smile.

This week I feel a desperate urge to bake everything. I want to bake with my family and pass down the recipes. I want to share treats and give gifts of goodies to friends. Sometimes it is fun and sometimes it feels more like work and the cost of ingredients can get away on you.  Sometimes all the dirty baking dishes can get away on you!
 I am really busy and over committed right now and I don't have the energy for it.  I sure don't need all the calories that those lovely chocolaty treats come with. Common sense tells me the grocery store\s bakery has it covered. My daughters say lets make this favorite food or that favorite cookie. My Grandkids usually make gingerbread house with me however I haven't visited with them in weeks. Despite all this I still want to be baking!

For a while there I was physically unable to do much baking and cooking and it shot right up to the top of my rehab priorities. I worked with my occupational therapist on regaining my cooking skills and in fact I still have the goal sheets where we worked out what I wanted to accomplish and brought it down to my SMART goals.

 It was absolutely the right goal for me at the time and it worked on all those damaged skills.. hand control, planning, order of operation for activities and it even worked on my stamina! It was a useful skill. It was familiar. It was part of having a normal life. What I have recently come to understand is how complicated the idea of a "relevant" goal is.

The ladies and gentlemen in the personal care homes always enjoy the baking programs we do. For most people it is not about trying to get back skills like I was doing in rehab, but it is indeed about regaining a little bit of their former life.
Baking programs are a fun social event shared with others. The smell of the  ingredients, the act of stirring and pouring all have this sense of connecting us with a different time. The smell of the food baking and the taste of the food is evocative of the past. It is a sensory joy.
It brings us memories of shared times with family and a pride in producing and sharing something of value.  It is connecting our now with our past and giving us a sense of continuity.

When we bake we share our stories and tell about who we are.

Friday, December 11, 2015

I'm Back!


It has been months since I blogged.  My last post  included the cliff hanger that I had received a termination notice for my job.

Yippee! I get to stay in my same job!  I had a term job while a staff person was away on maternity leave. When she decided not to return to her former position the situation changed and eventually my little part-time job turned into a permanent job. I am at work about 26 hours every two weeks plus an extra shift every once in a while.

When I thought my job was over I applied for another job as a casual employee at a different Personal Care Home and I got that job too. It is like being a substitute teacher. I get called to see if I can come in to work when regular recreation staff are on vacation or off sick. It is not ultimately a lot of hours but I am really enjoying working there too.

The other things I do each week include facilitating a weekly Art Group at the Stroke Recovery Association of Manitoba, participating in a local community choir and I am still involved with Girl Guides.  I enjoy time with family and friends and I keep trying to learn new things. 

Guitar lessons are on the back burner for now. It just felt like too much for this year but I am not giving up permanently.  I dug out a book of beginner Christmas carols and I am playing and singing away when no one is at home with me except the dog!

I still spend a lot of time really exhausted and I have a lot of joint trouble now but I keep going anyway. I am trying to be very careful how I move and trying to pace myself. It is hard though because my heart and mind wants to try everything and do everything but my body keeps saying "Enough is enough!".

I have worried a lot about what to do with this blog.

The fact is that I am not all that up front at work or in professional situations about my health, my recovery experiences or my level of disability. I am not ashamed of who I am or what I have experienced but most of the time I feel like it is just too much work to explain my life to people. I also don't want to be judged and I don't want people second guessing my professionalism or my ability to do a good job based on the fact that I have had a brain injury.

I strongly believe in advocacy for the rights of people with disabilities or special health needs and I have felt very ashamed about my unwillingness to  be open and speak up for myself.  I was worried that other Recreation Professionals would only see my weaknesses and that no one would hire me and give me a chance to show my strengths.

I have learned a lot about health, recreation and therapy in the past couple of years and I do want to share what I have learned. I have thought a lot about opening a separate blog with ideas about Therapeutic Recreation but I think being true to myself  means that I should just keep going forward with this beloved blog of mine.  I want to continue to share my personal story but I also plan to write about a broader variety of recreational and leisure activity topics, health conditions and community resources. I want to share some of the fun activities I am involved in. 

The title of my blog still works for me.
I still want to write about Leading a Healthy Life.

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