Former nurses making a difference in the lives of Touchmark residents
May is National Nurses Month, a special time to celebrate the warm and compassionate care of nurses not only nationwide, but within Touchmark communities. Please enjoy this story about the inspiring group of retired nurses and health care professionals who continue giving their time and talents to others at Touchmark at Fairway Village.
When Diana Scheel, 70, was weighing her post-high school options, career paths for women were limited, even more so if there wasn’t money available for continued education.
“I didn’t want to be a secretary or a teacher,” she says. “I was always interested in science.”
A program offered by the military provided an education in exchange for four years of service.
Now retired, her mission to serve continues as part of an active group of health care workers offering their knowledge and experience to their Touchmark at Fairway Village neighbors.
Last year, Lorraine Wheeler, 77, was thrilled when a lunch she helped coordinate for National Nurses Week drew more than 10 retired health care workers who live at Touchmark. Later, as she reflected on their combined experience, she had an idea.
“Maybe we have something to offer here,” she thought.
Nearly a year later, that inspiration has blossomed into programs supporting the well-being of Touchmark residents.
Ongoing education about health and wellness is paramount, and the Nurses Notes is a prime example of their focus. “We host a monthly speaker on health and wellness topics,” says Lorraine. “Sessions have included Seasonal Affective Disorder, How to Cope with Loss & Grief, and Listening to Your Body.”
Diana’s main role has been to create a clearinghouse of nutritional information in the form of a binder that includes detailed information about ingredients, such as sodium and gluten. She also works with the Dining Services team to offer meals that meet residents’ dietary restrictions.
Diana quickly points out she is not a nutritionist creating strict meal plans but a resource for residents “so they can make educated choices.”
Lorraine also promotes education by coordinating a book club that focuses on life changes.
The third program, created by Suzanne Hurd, 84, a retired biochemist and nursing instructor, is called the Friendly Neighbor Program. Her inspiration came from frequent visits to her husband, who lives in Touchmark’s memory care neighborhood. She noticed some of the residents never had any visitors.
“I thought that was pretty sad,” she says. Now, a group of volunteers regularly visits with residents in the neighborhood, with some bringing their dogs. “While many of the residents have short-term memory loss, they tell interesting stories about their past,” she explains. “One resident’s adventures included walking across Antarctica with his dog!”
After a 33-year nursing career, Mary Warner, 81, says the visitors get just as much enjoyment from the visits as those they’re visiting. On her first day volunteering, she mentioned that she was from Montana. A resident, who was also from Montana, overheard her.
“She came over and gave me a big hug, and we’ve been friends ever since,” Mary fondly recalls.
All of the women agree their volunteer work is an extension of lives dedicated to community service. Besides her visits to memory care, Mary also volunteers for nonprofits, including organizations serving those experiencing food insecurity.
“It’s important to give back to the community where you live,” she says.
This impressive group of residents was recently featured on KATU’s A.M. Northwest and Afternoon Live segments. See them in action!
We thank these incredible women for all of their amazing contributions to the world and the nursing profession and hope their story will inspire others with a passion for helping.