Thursday, 1:30 p.m., the moment residents in Inglis House’s 3-South neighborhood have been waiting for has arrived. It’s Tea Time. They steer their wheelchairs toward the solarium where snacks, music, companionship, and of course, a wide assortment of tea await.
“It’s my favorite thing we’ve started since I’ve been here,” says Michael Kelly, Neighborhood Life Leader. He latched onto the idea while looking for a way to divert residents from dwelling on their debilitating diseases. For the first few gatherings he advertised the event and rounded up people to attend. Now at Tea Time, no extra encouragement is required as up to 20 residents with staff and volunteers eagerly crowd into the solarium. “It just happens,” he says.
Since Inglis House has pivoted toward person-centered care and the Neighborhood Model, Kelly and other staff members feel more freedom to initiate events like Tea Time, and that’s making life better life for residents, sometimes with shocking results.
Like the resident who was shy to the point of being nonverbal and nonsocial until she began attending Tea Time. One day Kelly saw her on the elevator. “Hi, Michael, how are you?” she asked. Kelly was stunned.
“I’m like, ‘Daisy, is that you? Because she would never have spoken before,” he recalls. “Now she laughs and participates in meetings – she’s one person I think about who has changed a lot.”
He has more opportunity now to unplug from routine and focus on sharing with residents things he enjoys, like specialty cooking and presenting an art history class. “I might decide today I’m not going to do any paperwork, but instead gather people and go out into the courtyard. I like that I have the freedom to act first and ask forgiveness later if there is something I know is good for my neighborhood.”
Karen Yeagins agrees. Her promotion from food service worker to neighborhood homemaker enabled her to share her passion for physical fitness with residents. A certified fitness trainer, she started an exercise class, dedicating an hour a day to leading residents in upper body movement. “We talk about nutrition and healthy habits; after class we often have healthy snacks for them,” she says.
She feels more fulfilled in her work now. As a food service worker, she was primarily deployed in the central kitchen away from residents. But now in the neighborhood, she provides for a majority of their non-clinical needs and feels more appreciated in return. “I started baking cookies; everybody can smell them down the hallway and are excited to try them … that is satisfying,” she says.
She plans to take a course at Inglis to learn how to assist residents in danger of choking while dining. “Some days there are not enough CNAs in the dining room to assist all who need it. “It hurts me to see someone sitting there waiting to eat,” she says.
“It’s kind of like taking care of your own family,” she adds