Meet Beverly Wimberly.
She’s responsible for an entire floor of 60 residents in her nursing home, and she supervises three shifts of eight nurses and twenty aides.
She was my wife Martha’s best friend at Menorah Manor in St. Petersburg, and remains mine. If no one else could fulfill a need of Martha’s, Beverly often could. She was my “go-to” person as well as humorist-in-charge.
Humor resolves a lot of the emotional issues that can arise daily on her third floor, Beverly tells me. She certainly kept my spirits up when I poked my nose in her office: “You again. What do you want now, Carlen?” And we’d both crack up.
If ever a person has experienced the full range of symptoms and behaviors that arise from Alzheimer’s and other dementias—with victims and families alike—Beverly stands atop the list. She’s an LPN who for 21 years has worked in a nursing home setting. She’s a pro’s pro.
That’s why I decided to pick her brain and share some of Beverly’s thoughts on caregiving with you. Following are her responses and insights.
Carlen: Martha lived at home for a decade before moving into Menorah Manor. The move was emotionally tough for our children and me. How do you and your staff help families get past this shock?
Beverly: It’s a hard transition for some people. Here’s what I tell them: “We’re going to take good care of your loved one, and we’re all going to be family here. It’s time for you to spend quality time with your loved one while you let us do the heavy lifting.”
CM: What tips do you have for someone looking for the right nursing home for their loved one?
BW: My mother-in-law had to go to a nursing home before she passed. Check out the environment. Is it clean and well kept? Have several conversations with the staff; not just administrators but also those working on the floors. See what the rooms look like; not just the ones you’re being shown. Look closely at the residents. Are they groomed and clean? Don’t just visit at an appointed time; pop in unannounced. If the staff knows you’re coming at one o’clock, then they’ll have everything picked up, clean, and ready for you.
CM: Some of these suggestions also sound like good advice once your loved one has moved into a nursing home.
BW: Yes, they are. Especially the one about popping in unexpectedly.
CM: What are some of the basic things you would suggest for a family member to do for a loved one in a nursing home?
BW: Visit often. Hang up family pictures. Make their room into a home-like atmosphere. That room is all they have. Bring a quilt or comforter that they really like. Come any time. We have no visiting hours here as long as you don’t disturb a roommate.
CM: I suspect you see all kinds of family caregivers.
BW: Yes I do. You have good family members and bad ones. Out of our 60 residents, ten families come here on a regular basis. Some never visit. Others sort of pop in, and before the elevator door closes they’re back on it. The regular members are supportive; they make their loved one’s room feel like home; and they come and sit with them. Their visits have a good impact; if they miss a time or two, a resident can be very upset.
CM: Describe your job, other than the administrative side.
BW: My job is to take care of our residents and their family members. If families are hurting, I sit and hug and cry with them. If they need something that we can provide, I get it. One time, I even went to a hospital where a resident’s son was a patient in order to help him call his mother on my floor. Other times, I’ve bought items for residents out of my own pocket when their family didn’t show. That’s my job.
CM: What’s the most difficult part of your job?
BW: A resident’s death. It’s like losing a friend if it’s someone I’m really attached to. I truly have to mourn. A lot of times, I just pray that I’m not there when they go.
Another hard part is when a resident needs something and you can’t give it to them. There can be a lot of “therapeutic fibbing.” For instance, if a spouse has died I may have to tell my resident that the spouse has gone to the grocery store but will be back soon.
CM: Why did you get into this profession?
BW: I’ve always loved nursing. Even in high school when I was a volunteer “candy-striper” at Bayfront hospital.
CM: What inspires you most about your career?
BW: My relationship with our residents. If they’re down and I can lift their spirits, I love that. If I can relieve their pain, I love that, too. I’ve learned that I can’t let on when I’m feeling down; I’ve got to put that aside when I walk onto the floor. Those times I did let my feelings show, some residents quickly asked, “What’s wrong?” I hadn’t realized that my humor and attitude had such an impact on my friends living here.
Thank you, Beverly. You’re my hero.
PS1>In the last post I asked if any of you were interested in sharing your story with the rest of our readers, and several of you responded yes. Their stories will be published in the coming months. There’s no deadline to respond. You may let me know at any time that you’re now ready to share with others.
PS2>Cookeville, TN (My hometown). I will share our story at the Public Library on Saturday, May 20th, at 1:30 (CDT). I’d love to see you if you’re in town. Two days before on Thursday, May 18th I’m talking in Knoxville at an Alzheimer’s Tennessee Inc. meeting. It will be a half-day morning session with lunch in which I and others will be speaking. For more info, click here.