Persons before Tasks – Camille Cowley

Jan 6, 2017 | Blog

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Want an example of WHY we put persons before tasks? Want some goosebumps, a little inspiration? Read below.

Let’s say we have a resident with moderate cognitive impairment. She rarely verbalizes but when she does it’s usually to ask “where’s the coffee?” We bring her coffee but once it’s gone she asks for more. So mostly she sits in her favorite chair- she sits very quiet and still. She’s safe, healthy and free from harm so once her needs are met, this is how she spends her days. If you are reading this thinking “sounds about right” you’re not alone.

But what if one day instead of walking by, you stop and get Ms. Ericka a cup of thickened coffee. Instead of leaving it with her you stop for a second and spend a little time. She drinks it and like many persons with even severe cognitive impairment Ms. E perks up and begins talking about her past.

The cover of a book Ms. Ericka wroteShe claims she wrote a book all about her early life. It sounds interesting so you ask about it. She tells you she was born in Germany and in 1939 when the Nazi’s were taking over, she and her family had to flee. “Obey or be shot like spies without trial.” she says in her European accent, that’s what they said. She says her family had to move a bunch of times in fact, through Poland and France, just to find safety. Eventually, the advancing Russian Army forced them back to the town where she was born- Saarbruecken. I mean our kids are devastated when their phone chargers go missing! Ms. Ericka survived starvation, evacuations, bomb attacks and surgery without anesthesia. She was a child, just like yours and mine and had to leave her friends, her home, her country- everything she knew. Sounds pretty hard to believe, right?

But what if you Google her story using her full name and Amazon pops up with a hit?

It’s true. Every word of it- true. And we are part of her life story.

This story comes to us from Camille Cowley and our Vero Beach Family. These are her words:

“Working in the business office it’s easy to lose touch with residents. (I started as a Certified Nursing Assistant and my residents were my extended family.) I decided to get my office work done so I could catch up with one of our Memory Care residents, Ericka Babcock. She was my resident for a few months while I was on the floor. She’s very quiet and mostly sits with her arms crossed and head down. I wondered how she was doing.

She never seems like she wants to engage with anybody but I remembered that if you offer her a cup of thickened coffee and take the time, she can talk for Camille and Ms. Ericka both women smilingdays. So that’s what I did and her favorite topic today was a book. She told me she wrote it about living through World War II and how she was forced to leave her hometown in Germany and find refuge in Poland, France and other countries in Europe.

I found it online! Once I read the preview I just HAD to order it. I’ll let you know if it’s a good read, (I might be partial since I know the author smile emoji

Camille closed her message with these words: “you know, sometimes with our residents we forget to look past their terrible diseases, we forget they once were authors, teachers, community leaders.” And truer words have never been spoken. It’s easy to understand right? Because we always have a lot of things to do? But Camille, in her own words has reminded us why we are all here. We are here for the persons- they are members of our Palm Garden Family- and they come before tasks. Without our guests, residents and family members Palm Garden would just be a beautiful empty building.

So this is WHY we put persons before tasks. Because our family believes it’s not simply good enough to sit safely in a favorite chair, sit very quiet and still. Our Palm Garden Family believes our guests and residents have lived amazing lives. Lives full of joy and pain and heartache and jubilation. Each one represented by a story that makes them special. And so we celebrate that story each according to the specific life. And that’s what makes us different, and ultimately it’s the reason we are here.

And once in a while, thanks to teammates like Camille, we get a little something back. I’ll leave you with a quote from Ms. Ericka’s book, it’s a great reminder of just how lucky we are to be members of this family:

“I remember starvation, evacuations, bomb attacks, a broken marriage, love affairs- surgery without anesthesia by a doctor, later convicted of murder; hospital work amid pain and wounds, and the constant threats of sickness, cold and hunger. Through it all, I learned to keep the promise I made to myself, that I would never cry again over trivialities as long as I could “breathe freely.”

Luke Neumann
Senior Director of Service and Relationship Development