Christian Schultz has been thinking of senior residents as individuals during this trying time: “Amidst all this craziness I remember thinking, ‘How will this affect our residents? How will Bob in Kansas City deal with this when he can no longer come out of his room to play checkers with his buddies? And what about Janet in Connecticut who walks her little Pomeranian, Lilly, outside multiple times a day?’”
Schultz shared with us his firsthand experience as someone invested in the well-being of the residents in Morrison Living accounts, and like so many in the senior dining field, he talks about how his experience has become personal. Here’s his story:
“Five years ago, I had a stroke at the age of 39. Driving home from work I suddenly got a massive headache behind my right eye. I couldn’t swallow a sip of water and the right side of my face went numb. I pulled over at a gas station that was 300 yards away and a sheriff was there. I approached his car and relayed my symptoms. Within an hour and a half I was in the Cleveland Clinic Neuro ICU. Due to the brilliance of these doctors and their fast actions, I fully recovered.
I’ve never feared hospitals or been hesitant when it came to taking my medicine. And I’ve never really understood those that are. If I am sick, where else should I be but with healers who have studied the ails of the human body longer than any singular commitment I’ve made? As for the medicine, if it will help me heal and relieve the pain, I can see no logical reason to abstain from this.
To me these are somewhat obvious statements because they are directly related to my own self-preservation. But why would I, a healthy 44-year-old male, choose to get the vaccine shot so early on? I work for Morrison Living. We are a hospitality company that works exclusively with senior living communities across the country. Before the first pandemic-related lockdown I was traveling three weeks out of the month to visit our clients, my managers and the residents themselves. Then overnight, all of that stopped.
It was abrupt, jarring and unsettling in many ways. We, like everyone else, found ourselves in completely new territory.
Constantly adjusting as new information came out on how to keep everyone safe and keep everything sanitized. How to take better care of our residents and our workers who are on the frontline every day.
Over the last year the toll COVID-19 has taken on our residents and our industry is one that can’t just be counted in numbers. It can be counted in the tears of our staff who have served far too many last meals this to their residents this last year. It can be counted by the loss of smiles and laughter in our communities and the voices no longer sharing the stories of their lives with us. It can be seen in the eyes of the loved ones who are still here after their loss. In the sullen, stressed faces of all the healthcare workers worked to their breaking point.
When I was offered the vaccine by one of my clients this past month there was no decision to be made. It was beyond simple for me. It’s not that I hadn’t read and done research on what was available. I had, and all of it pointed to a below average level of side effects with a high level of efficacy. But even if that were not true, I don’t know that it would have made much of a difference. When you have had managers call you at 10 o’ clock at night and break down on the phone because their staff is working to the bone and they just lost one of their favorite residents again, this was a more common occurrence than not.
My drive is the urge to get back out to communities to support and work and do whatever I can, even if it’s only to give someone a day off.
To serve meals to residents and try to put a smile on their face and forget if only for a moment would be worth most any side effect. In this regard I was lucky. My first shot left me with only a sore arm for about a day. The second shot left me with a fever for about two hours the day of and a sore arm for about two more days. I have had many colleagues who weren’t as fortunate enough to have such mild side effects but having spoken with all of them I can assure you they all feel the same as I do.
Any of these side effects or chances were worth it because we are in the business of hospitality, of showing care through food and service and in this last year that has transformed in many of our communities to an even more intimate act. Sometimes our staff will be the only interaction they may get while in lockdown, in these brief human moments, relationships are built and strengthened. We offer the food and care and a smile, and, on some days, those simple acts can have greater meaning and effect than we may know. And I will take a dozen shots if it gets me back to be part of this and give myself to this service of helping our residents and my staff.”
Contact Tara at [email protected]
Follow her on Twitter @Tara_Fitzie