Eyes Wide Open

By Steve Petitjean, Executive Director of The Ohio Masonic Home Foundation


On a recent visit to Western Reserve Masonic Community, my heart was overwhelmed with gladness as I toured the Pathways memory support neighborhood. The passion, knowledge and care demonstrated by our tour guides, Karra and Stephanie, gave me great pride in the work we do to serve as the trusted partner in helping people to age respectfully.

As we visited with residents and spoke with family members, Karra and Stephanie educated me on our newest programming to enhance the lives of those battling Alzheimer’s and dementia, called Connected Realities. The principle idea behind the program is that we: staff, family, and friends, work to connect with our loved ones wherever they may be. One of the stories shared by Stephanie was about a gentleman who I will call Bill. Like all of us, Bill has good and bad days, however, Bill’s actions and behaviors over the past several months had his caregivers believing him to be discontent. Enter Connected Realities.

Similar to several other “work stations” throughout the neighborhood, The Ohio Masonic Home staff created an “office area” complete with a desk. Knowing Bill to be a retired school teacher, Stephanie completed a math test and left it on the desk. Without direction, Bill came by later, saw the test, took time to grade it and marked it up with red ink. Later, when Stephanie saw what had happened, she asked Bill, “How did I do?” Bill’s response, “Well young lady, let’s just say that you have some work to do.” In case you are worried, Stephanie is not going to fail, as Bill did kindly offer her additional assistance to help her improve. Oh, and talking about improvement, Bill has had a significant decline in the number of negative actions and behaviors. Bill is having far more good days than bad.

With that, my eyes were opened wide. We have to connect with those we love and care about, wherever they are. Not where we want them to be, but where they are. Bill, he likes to spend time in the classroom. We will be there with him, learning and growing together!