Visiting with family members in nursing homes has been incredibly difficult in the last year. Restrictions have been put in place to protect the residents, but while it’s kept many physically safe, it’s also prevented healthy interaction with loved ones and has taken a toll on their mental health.
One daughter in St. Paul, Minnesota, was tired of the red tape that kept getting in the way last year when she wanted to visit her 87-year-old father, Harold, at the Good Samaritan Society in Stillwater.
She’d been able to do a window visit in November, and video chat was an option, but like many people his age, it was difficult for Harold, a father of eight, to navigate the finer points of setting up for a live chat.
So Lisa Racine, 58, came up with a unique solution. She already worked full-time as a project manager at a printing company, but she picked up an evening shift several times a week at the nursing home.
“One day I just was thinking, ‘How can I see my dad more?”‘ Racine told KARE-TV. “And I thought, ‘Hey, why don’t I get a job there?'”
The possibility was made more possible because the administrator at the nursing home was Racine’s cousin, Rene Racine.
“I thought it was a wonderful idea, you know, just a wonderful idea that she came up with,” Rene told CNN. “Everybody really loves her. She’s a great person, has a great personality and a good work ethic.”
Starting Dec. 1, Racine came in two or three times a week to stock cupboards and refrigerators, serve food, and then clean everything up after dinner service.
Once she was done with her shift, she would go and spend time with her dad. The first time she showed up, Harold didn’t even recognize her — but he was immediately grateful for the visits.
“He just thought I was a nurse’s aide or something,” Racine recalled. “I said, ‘It’s me, Dad,’ and he’s like, ‘Lisa, what are you doing here? How did you get in? Who let you in?’ He thought I was gonna get in trouble or something.”
“I have a bit of a routine,” she continued. “I usually arrive a few minutes early and I go check on my dad and then when I’m done serving dinner, I check on him again.
“At the end of my shift, then I go in his room and I visit with him and it could be anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, hour-and-a-half, depending on how he’s feeling.
“He definitely looks forward to it and it raises his spirits. I wish I could be there every day, but unfortunately, that’s not possible. I feel like it’s giving him a little more zest for life.”
While she does get paid for the gig, as restrictions start to lift, she’ll cut back on her hours but remain available if they need someone to fill in.
The visits have clearly done good for Harold’s well-being, and the two share a special bond.
“I can’t believe they pay me for this,” Racine said. “I could you know take a yoga class or go to happy hour, I’d rather come and mop the floor and clean dishes so I can see my dad … He’s cleaned up plenty of messes after me in the past.”
“The trials and tribulations of raising that many children, in the end it certainly paid off,” Harold said. “I’m getting my rewards back, tenfold.”
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