Count Your Blessings

He came to us through the labyrinth of university closed doors. Ninety-two years old, Jesse G. wanted to develop a cognitive brain program. He landed on Dr. E’s desk because she has a big heart and hoped to gain future goodwill for research in the assisted living arena. He was a successful business man with a passion to get his peers out of their depression and back into life. By the time our research team met with him, he had formulated an entire program of reminiscence as well as a battery of tests to assess its value. He envisioned starting with 500, we suggested 14.

What we as university representatives had to offer was not what he needed. Our volumes of regulation and preliminary review process would take too long for Jesse. He expressed the desire and need to leave a legacy.

We were able to offer a few student volunteers and a few speakers for his twelve session program: Count Your Blessings, Not Your Toes. He took our advice in protecting the  identification of his participants as well as including a geropsych nurse.  This last was to address any of the fallout that we as academics feared would happen in an unmonitored life review process. Our volunteers helped him apply several standard assessments of cognition, depression, and stress prior to the start of the program.

It was a worrisome day when I met him to share that the university would not be able to conduct research with the project.  But I was able to express the enthusiasm the project deserved and promise what support we could offer.  We left the meeting as successful politicians, shaking hands all around.

The project was almost forgotten, when I received an email requesting that I cover a week of the program.  I was honored to present my psychosocial workshop, Feathering Your Nest on the sixth week. This was the week Jesse returned from the hospital after missing week five due to a heart attack. He was less vital, a bit fuzzy, but still in charge. In the meantime he had recruited key leaders in the Assisted Living to assist as well as applied for a large community grant. He was still dreaming of taking it national. For an hour and a half I had the interactive energy of 14 seniors in the assisted living. Jesse was beaming with the success of the program. Our student volunteers reported similar results for all the weeks to date.

Jesse and the project slipped from my mind again.  One of the students told me when it had wrapped up.

Then this week she stopped in with his final report. His Healthy Brain Initiative Wrap-Up for Count Your Blessings, Not Your Toes. Every one of his assessments showed huge improvement post-program!

And she told me, Jesse is in the hospital and not expected to come home . . .

Legacy–he did it. He has successfully launched a boat that may indeed go nation-wide. Regardless, he knew what he wanted to pass on, and he took the action to get it done. Successful businessman, successful individual.

For us—Jesse opened up our worlds to the real side of Gerontology–the aging side. Hands on action. The data may be flawed, the sample skewed, the results not publishable in a peer-reviewed article. But the peers that mattered were touched. A legacy will be carried forth. Fourteen people were blessed, and the circle of influence spreads out to each of us who had a part in Count Your Blessings.

Hats off to Jesse G.—-an example of imminent action and the value of legacy.  A blessing to all of his peers.

Author: Cate
Passionate about dementia care and quality of life throughout the last days of life----sums up Cate McCarty, Dr. Cate, Dementia Coach. With close to forty years of long-term care experience in nursing and recreation, a Master's in Thanatology and a PhD in Aging Studies, Dr. Cate seizes every opportunity to translate research into quality of life for individuals with dementia and all of us who have the honor to "rub elbows" with them.

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