By Sister Nancy Surma, OSF
Did you ever think about what happens to fish in water gardens during the cold winter months? In the climate of southwest Ohio, if the pond is too shallow and freezes down to the bottom during sustained low temperatures, the fish will freeze too and die. So what does this have to do with health care? I think it illustrates the concept of holistic care for the elders in a nursing home.
Franciscan Care Center, Sylvania (FCCS), is a 99-bed residential and rehabilitation facility for the care of the elderly and those in need of extensive rehabilitation services. It is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis and is a member of Sylvania Franciscan Health. Its mission statement reads “In a compassionate environment, we provide care that enhances the person: mind, body, and spirit.”
One way that statement is lived out is by the concern shown to goldfish and koi that were in the pond in the inner courtyard at FCCS. There is a lovely garden with raised flower beds in the courtyard which during summer months brings a great deal of pleasure and enjoyment to residents and their visitors. Employees and volunteers have kept the space as a green oasis surrounded on all sides by the building.
The mother of one of the cooks at FCCS had experience taking care of ponds so this past summer she offered to make a pond a part of the garden, stocking it with the fish and keeping it clean. The residents loved this feature and got joy out of watching the fish dart around. One day, a raccoon climbed up the building and over into the garden and enjoyed the fish too—but as a meal. The pond keeper re-stocked the pond and thus continued this peaceful place which helped nourish the residents in mind, body, and spirit.
But with winter coming, the pond keeper knew the water level was too shallow to support the fish once the water froze. The administrator of FCCS, wanting to continue to provide an activity that is life giving—for the residents, was able to purchase a 125-gallon tank as a winter home for the 12 goldfish and koi. The tank is located behind the receptionist’s desk as you enter the facility. If you come into the building, you will often see residents in wheelchairs who come by to enjoy the flash of color in the water. One resident talks to the fish one by one and has given each a name.
This simple expression of care, for both fish and the residents who love them, shows how a nursing home can be more home-like and caring. FCCS has received a Five Star Quality Rating (the highest rating given) from the Medicare Compare Nursing Home rating system. The rating was based on health inspections, staffing and quality measures. It didn’t consider the fish whose lives were spared and the effect that would have on elderly residents who love watching them. Numbers just can’t capture that kind of care. For more information of Franciscan Care Center, Sylvania, go to http://www.fccsylvania.org.