As Thanksgiving approaches, we all have different blessings to count -- maybe a stable job, a loving family, comfort foods on the table. But at least one local woman is still savoring her summer vacation well into fall. That's because, though she is 58, this was her first vacation ever.
Jerry Moore, a resident of Linden Grove Health Care Center since it opened in 1994, has cerebral palsy, and is mentally disabled and legally blind. This has not stopped her from becoming one of the most charming and conversational residents at the center, however -- and her favorite topic is vacation.
Moore has an insatiable interest in others' vacations, according to Rebecca Santisi, Director of Admissions and Marketing at the center. As a result, she has received many postcards from vacation spots, and has been a great audience when the vacation pictures and stories come out. But finally, after 13 years of vicarious travel, Moore was overheard saying, "I wish I could go on vacation."
Michelle Sayres, Director of Activities, was determined to make that wish come true. But it wasn't exactly easy.
"Michelle discovered the Easter Seals camp Stand by Me," Santisi explained. "This unique camp offers special sessions for adults with disabilities." It would be perfect -- but after Moore was accepted to the camp, she suddenly had a lot of work to do in order to prepare.
"For the first time in her life, she needed a bathing suit, a sleeping bag, a camera to capture all of her fun moments, and a suitcase," Santisi said. "But that wasn't all. She also needed to be more mobile. Jerry is wheelchair-bound due to the effects of the cerebral palsy. We referred her for rehabilitation, where she worked hard for several weeks on stand-pivot transfers to different surfaces, as well as walking, to ensure she would be able to take a few steps if needed."
These preparations paid off for Moore as she went swimming, horseback riding, and fishing for the first time in her life. "Jerry was able to sit around a campfire at night and sing camp songs. She was able to dance with other campers and counselors," said Santisi. "This has been a dream come true for Jerry. Camp counselors had used Jerry's camera to take her picture throughout the week and, without exception, she was always grinning from ear to ear."
Back at home, it was Moore's turn to share her pictures and stories with others; she has been enjoying the role ever since. "She carries her photo album everywhere she goes, and you will often see her looking at them in the quiet space of her room," Santisi said. "Her joy is contagious."
In addition to making Moore's wishes come true, the camp adventure has had some other positive effects as well. Linden Grove recently received a Once in a Lifetime award from Revera Health Systems, which includes 30 skilled care centers across the United States, for helping Jerry make her wish come true. The company gave out 12 Quest for Excellence awards this fall, but Linden Grove's is the cream of the crop: Jerry's vacation also took home the "Residents' Choice" award, based on a vote by residents of all 30 centers.
"We have a sacred trust to care for the whole person," said Cheri Kauset, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Revera. "The attentive and caring staff at Linden Grove listened to and honored Jerry's need to go on vacation, and they made it happen. That's what Revera is all about."
And perhaps when you feel like grumbling about the traffic or the security check at the airport, remembering Jerry will help you feel better. Just relax, take pictures, and be prepared to make a great story of it later.
Linden Grove Health Care Center, a member of Revera Health Systems, offers short-term care and therapy for adults of all ages, as well as long-term, respite and hospice care. For more information visit www.reveraLindenGrove.com.