One of my proudest moments as a Guide for the Penfield Green House homes was when one of the Shahbazim (self-managed team of direct care staff), Wendy, texted me and said “Hurray! We made it!” … I didn’t know what she meant and I was at our legacy building about 20 minutes away so I couldn’t just pop over to clarify the news. The therapeutic recreation specialist for our Green House homes, Mimi, has an office across from me, so I moseyed over to her and asked her if she knew what Wendy could mean? Mimi said “Nope, I don’t know anything.” So, I texted Wendy back and asked her “Made it where? What are you all up to?” She replied, “Check Facebook!”
I didn’t have time to check the site, as I was rushing off to another meeting so it was an hour later before I was able to close the loop. As it turned out, all 10 elders, the Shahbazim and a Nurse were buying grape pies in Naples, NY which is about 2 hours away. The team planned the whole thing, scheduled the van, grabbed the credit card, and even got the other House to come over and check on Lexi, the house dog, because this was her first time on her own. On their way home, they stopped for lunch, and enjoyed the iconic fall scenery in upstate NY. It was beautiful, well executed, and neither the “boss” or “activities” knew anything about it.
Saying goodbye is never easy. Saying goodbye to a particularly adventurous soul – one who embodied so much of our vision to lead and inspire a shift in society’s views of elderhood –- is especially difficult. Louis “Lou” DeLucia was a friend, a wise elder, an independent spirit, an advocate, and a shining example of what is unique and beautiful about the Green House model of skilled nursing care.
Lou challenged staff and fellow residents to “think outside the box.” Earlier this year, he came to the table at one of St. John’s community-based Green House homes in Penfield, NY and said, “We should get a dog.” Lou had the insight to see how this pet could enhance their quality of life. Alexandra, or Lexi, as she’s called, moved in on June 24, and has become a cherished companion. Says elder Dorothy Carcelli, first-time dog owner at age 89, “She (Lexi) brings a lot of joy to everybody.”
Lou insisted on going outside every day, even throughout the winter. We worried for him, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. He made friends throughout the adjacent Arbor Ridge community and when they hosted their holiday party, Lou was the elder they invited. After his passing on August 12, they came together to give a gift in his honor. They wrote, “Lou was a good neighbor and friend, and quite a character as well! We in Arbor Ridge will miss his presence and remember him fondly.” This gesture is evidence of the community connections and relationships Lou formed because he had the opportunity to be a part of something beyond the traditional nursing home and took advantage of it each and every day.
Lou reminds us to keep celebrating and keep seeking these non-traditional approaches to meaningful days for our elders.