Celebrating Life Stories

March 21, 2022

GEM - Go the extra mile with a gem behind the words

Did you know Palm Garden caregivers are empowered to learn the personal life story of every individual we’re lucky enough to serve? We are. It’s called the Palm Garden Way. We believe care is best delivered according to the grand tapestry of life events, memories, milestones, and experiences we all accumulate as individuals throughout our lives. So we learn who our guests and residents are and then we celebrate them. We call that Going the Extra Mile, or GEMS. Each caregiver is empowered and expected to learn anything that will enrich a person’s time with us, let them know they are loved like family- celebrated, and then make it happen.

GEMs are not identified by the money spent, rather their relation to the life story of our guest, resident, or family member. GEMS are personal. GEMS are quintessentially who we are as a family of caregivers.

I’d like to share a GEM with you. It comes to us from Palm Garden of Largo and our fantastic Regional Director of Transitional Services, Lisa Kent.

This little man is Fritzie. And you can see he’s excited because he’s going to see his mom.

A dog happily riding in the car looking out the window with the words I'm going to visit my mom over the image.

See, Fritzie’s mom, Sue, had a cardiac event that landed her in the hospital. She missed her little boy. You can imagine, 1-3 days away from each other is bad enough. But 30 days after open-heart surgery? There were moments, I’m sure, Sue wondered if she’d ever see Fritz again.

Now Fritz is good at a lot of things- cuddling, barking at strangers, and biting folks that fall for his good looks and puppy-dog eyes, but one thing he can’t do is drive. And Sue doesn’t have anyone to bring him to see her. Fritz is all she has. Her best friend…

When guests arrive at Palm Garden of Largo, they’re welcomed with a GEM within the first three days. Often it’s a personalized blanket related to their life story. Our caregivers knew how much she missed her little man and wanted her to feel closer to him. So they scoured Amazon and found a cozy blanket. Perfect for the chilly Florida mornings we’ve had lately. Look real close, it says “All you need is the love of a dog.”

A blanket with dogs all over it.

Sometimes all our guests have is the love of a dog at home.

Sue knew she wasn’t strong enough to go home yet because she was a paramedic for 20 years. She was born in Rochester, New York, and worked for Alfred Fire Department in Allegany County. Sue was the first female captain of a fire engine in the State of New York. Pumper Engine #5! Fritz means so much to Sue that even after open-heart surgery and 30 days in the hospital she wanted to go home instead of getting stronger with us.

So Lisa didn’t just arrange a visit. On a Saturday and in the middle of a Spring thunderstorm, Lisa picked Fritz up at Sue’s condo. She walked the little fella first to try and establish some trust. (Fritz won’t get in the car with just anybody) And then she drove him to see his mom. Just look at the smiles:

A dog visiting with his owner in her room. Both of them are sitting in a chair covered by a dog blanket.

Their smiles say it all. This is what it’s all about- “the good stuff.” Going the Extra Mile. We are fortunate, each of us, to be members of the Palm Garden Family where life story celebrations like this are expected and encouraged.

Did you know GEMS are for everyone? If you’ve got a loved one or friend at any of our Palm Garden Post-Acute Rehabilitation and Living Centers, you can call us and fill us in on GEM opportunities. You can also reach us through our website “contact us” button. Mom and Dad have an anniversary coming up, tell us. Grandpa is a big western fan, grandma likes to knit, tell us what will make your loved one’s day and we’ll make it happen.

There is no charge for GEMS. Seeing smiles like Sue and Fritzie’s is our emotional compensation. We are, after all, family. It’s our pleasure.