Alma Mazman looped the ribbon over and through as she prepared the card for the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County’s “giving tree.” It wasn’t easy for her 93-year-old eyes and fingers, but she was determined, and after all, she had threaded many a needle since she was a child in Fort Smith, Ark. Besides, Alma was having fun.
“I just love it that I can help somebody,” she said.” I love anything I can do to help.”
And with that sentence, Alma Mazman summed up what Matthew Lysobey hopes will soon be the new mantra for those who live in nursing homes.
Lysobey is administrator at Mission View Health Center in San Luis Obispo. The facility has 130 residents.
His tenants are closer to the end than the beginning of their lives. Many are not in the best of shape, and there is little shortage of sympathy and care for them.
But that is not enough, Lysobey came to feel.
“Many residents are unhappy” despite the care, Lysobey says. As he interacted with them, he sought to understand why.
He believes it is because “they are just receivers.”
“All they do all day long is say ‘Thank you,’ ” Lysobey says.
Nursing home residents, he said, “are able to give.” When they are allowed to, “there’s so much joy.” “They have all day,” he said. “They’re waiting to serve. Part of life is giving, and we’ve neglected that in long-term care.”
Why has this happened? Because we sell short the folks who go to such facilities.
“They’re not being utilized, because people underestimate them,” Lysobey says.
Lysobey’s argument resonates with me. My mother and my parents-in-law spent time in what we used to call old folks’ homes. It is no slur on the homes — they did, and do, their best — to say that life was not uplifting.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the word “warehousing” exists for a reason. A lot of folks know when they walk through the front door of such places they won’t be coming back out. They are, in a very real sense, elephant burial grounds for humans.
Lysobey says it can be a lot better if those who run the homes give residents hope and a feeling that they are still contributing — that they haven’t crawled away to die.
Which brings us back to Alma Mazman and her ribbons and her card.
She and three dozen of her peers at Mission View have dived enthusiastically into the opportunities Lysobey and others have created for them.
Among the many activities in which they have participated:• Mission View has helped sponsor the Food Bank’s activities this holiday season. Food Bank Coalition is the countywide program that provides foodstuffs to our local hungry population.
• Residents — including Alma — are making ornaments to help populate the Food Bank’s “giving trees.” • Residents will volunteer at Food Bank barrels at Scolari’s in San Luis Obispo throughout the holiday season.
“What Matthew and his team are doing with the residents is unique, but it shouldn’t be,” says Cathy Enns of the Food Bank.
“All senior living facilities should adopt (his) philosophy, and find ways for their people to give to the community,” says Enns.
Contact Bob Cuddy at 781-7909.