In senior housing the goal is to improve and enrich the quality of each seniors life. Sometimes we meet people working in senior communities who go above and beyond to ensure a senior is happy and thriving. In my opinion they are “Senior Angels” and should be recognized. This is the story about Jack and Honey, and the two angels that brought them together.
I was contacted in January by Jack’s son. At age 90, and living alone in Amarillo, the family was concerned for his well-being. A year earlier, Jack had lost his wife of 70 years, Patsy and was now alone in his house with the exception of his faithful canine companion, Maggie. Jack agreed to move to a retirement community closer to his son, but only if he could bring Maggie. Independent Living community Pinewood Hills in Flower Mound, Texas was a perfect match. Jack selected a first floor unit, with a backdoor opening to a lush and gorgeous greenbelt. A section of the yard could even be fenced in so Maggie had an area to play. Jack was packed up and ready to transition into his new life when tragedy struck…Maggie died the day before he was scheduled to move.
Through his sadness, Jack moved in to his new home. He did well for the first few weeks and even made a couple of new friends, but then Rhonda Bedrick, Resident Experience Coordinator noticed that he was regressing and no longer coming to the dining room for his meals. Rhonda visited with Jack to find out what was going on. She says “his face always lit up with every conversation about Maggie. I realized that the light was getting dimmer and he needed a dog.” For Rhonda, this isn’t so much a job as it is a calling. She had tears in her eyes as she shared “our goal is to prevent isolation and depression. We give our residents purpose, strength and belonging. When it’s all said and done, the residents bring me so much joy, and they give ME purpose, strength and belonging.”
Jack needed a dog, and the search was on. One of Jack’s new friends, Katie searched online, while Sales Leader, Debbie Welker posted on her Facebook page. Rhonda scoured community pages on Facebook, and her search quickly paid off when the Pelican Bay Animal Control Shelter posted a picture of a “perfect little dog for Jack.” Rhonda explained the situation to Bill at Pelican Bay and he agreed that this dog would be a great fit. After sharing the information with Jack’s son and getting his okay, Rhonda drove to Pelican Bay to pick up the dog. Bill waived all fees, and said that he would be on the lookout for dogs for future Pinewood Hills residents.
Jack was overjoyed when he was introduced to his new dog. He promptly named her Honey. When I asked him why he chose that name, he replied “because she’s a honey.” As Honey nestled onto Jack’s lap, he was all smiles as he said “She’s perfect for me. She sure is a blessing.”
The change in Jack was immediate. Debbie stated “he’s excited about life again, and coming to meals. The dog was the missing ingredient.” Rhonda says, “Jack needed a reason to get up every morning. Honey needs him to take care of her, and he has so much love to give her. Honey is the center of his attention and gives him a purpose.”
Rhonda and Debbie took the initiative to spend their personal time searching for the perfect dog for Jack. These two ladies have a heart and passion for seniors, which is why they are Senior Angels. Thank you both for bringing joy back into Jack’s life.
On a side note, Rhonda can now add “Dog Whisperer” to her resume. She is currently searching for dogs for three of her residents!
Lori Williams is the owner of the senior referral service, Lori Williams – Senior Services. She helps seniors and their families find senior communities in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Lori has worked in senior living for over 12 years, and uses her extensive knowledge and resources to assist families as they transition into senior housing. This is a no-cost service.