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The diligent work of staff at the Masonic Home of Shelbyville has drawn some special attention: Two awards from Kentucky Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.
Carl Hudson received the Dietary Award, and Leslie Mann received the award for Rehabilitation Services for their work in helping treat the elderly at their facility on Frankfort Road.
"The staff does extra stuff for the neighbors [residents]," said Marla Montell, administrator-in-training and director of the Pillars assisted-living area of the home. "These are stressful jobs. People here do such a nice job."
More than the task at hand, the heart of these jobs is a willingness to listen, to create an environment that truly feels like home for short-term and long-term residents alike.
The stories of Hudson and Mann may be instructive for how individual efforts help those in need.
Carl Hudson, the cook
Carl Hudson makes fantastic soups, though he came by this cooking prowess accidentally.
During a Christmas party, the kitchen ran out of cream of broccoli cheese soup. The soup comes frozen, but with no more on hand, Hudson made some up from scratch and served it to guests.
"I didn't tell them I cooked it, so I got to hear all their reactions," he said.
The soup was a hit, so much so that a kitchen contracting company, Morrisons, picked up several of his recipes to replicate in senior homes across the country.
Hudson, who began in housekeeping at the Masonic Home, is now the assistant head cook. He makes all the soups, from cream of celery to chicken and rice.
"If I don't please one of them [the residents], I'm upset because I didn't do my job," Hudson said.
He said he sees his work as a chef as an extension of what all the staff try to do, which is care for the 150 residents.
One of them is his grandmother, so Hudson explains to his fellow coworkers that they must be an extension of family. So many residents, he tells them, don't get to see their families very often.
"We're here to fill that void so they don't feel alone," he said.
The staff takes requests for meals or treats, such as rocky road ice cream. They'll play BINGO and have pumpkin-carving contests. Hudson has built special relationships with many residents, including one man who always calls him "Bobby."
"Anytime he gets upset, and the nurse's aides have problems, they call me down there," Hudson said.
Sometimes a familiar voice is as soothing as a bowl of veggie soup.
Leslie Mann, the rehabber
Leslie Mann and her eight fellow occupational and physical therapists can get a 98-year-old woman up and walking three weeks after a broken hip.
They see all levels of care in their recently expanded facility and are particularly proud of the fact that since January they've returned home 88 percent of short-term rehabilitation patients.
"This team is family-oriented, it's compassionate and dedicated," Mann said. "Without that you can't have good success."
From the first time Mann sees a patient, her focus is on setting goals that tailor to the individual.
"They would rather be able to stand and go fishing or take a shower," she said.
So Mann guides patients through gentle but challenging exercises to make that possible. One man needed to strengthen his legs and loved to bike ride, so Mann brought her own bike in and put it in a stationary setting for him to peddle away.
Take Melvin Cravens, 93, who worked with Mann one recent afternoon. Through therapy, Cravens can make the transition to the Masonic Home's assisted-living wing.
"Let's see how strong you are," Mann said, as she and Cravens stretched with a red band.
Then Mann had Cravens stand up from his wheelchair and work his arms more by clipping clothespins on an upright ruler. He ribbed her for taking some off, and she was attentive, both in supporting him with one hand and listening to his story of carpentry work as a young man.
"I've had a whole lot of therapy, and this is the nicest," Cravens said. "They put it to me, but before they did, I couldn't walk. I'd tremble and shake."