Conversation with … Deke Cateau

Visiting a nursing home may not be high on your list of things to do this holiday season but maybe it should be. This time of year can be particularly sad for many of the residents of Georgia’s nursing facilities. Like last year, the Georgia Health Care Association, which represents the state’s skilled nursing care facilities, has launched “Share a Moment of Love this Holiday,” a campaign to encourage people to visit a nursing home, even if you don’t know anyone there. “This is a very, very simple campaign,” said Deke Cateau, administrator of A.G. Rhodes Health & Rehab Atlanta. “We are just asking that you put down your cell phone and share some time with someone who might not necessarily have anyone. I promise you’ll see the benefits.” For a nursing home in your area, visit the Georgia Health Care Association website, at ghca.info. You can post a photo of your visit on Facebook.com/GHCA.info or tweet a mention on Twitter with the hashtag #ShareaMomentofLove.

Q: Is this a tough time of year for residents?

A: It is a time when a lot of residents reflect. They think about the loved ones they have lost over the years. People assume that all of our patients have families that live here locally. We have many residents whose families may live out of town. We have some who do not have family support at all, which emphasizes the need for campaigns like this.

Q: You participated in this campaign last year. How did that go?

A: It was wonderful. We always encourage people from the public to visit the facility and spend time with our residents. We did see a rise in the number of visitors we had because of the campaign.

Q: Who are your residents?

A: We have a huge mix. We do serve some residents with dementia but we don’t have any one grouping.

Q: What do the visits mean to your residents?

A: Words almost can’t express the look that we see on the faces of residents when they have a visitor or a group of young people come and give up their time to be with them.

Q: So even visits from strangers mean a lot?

A: Absolutely. A touch or hug from a stranger can mean the world to someone who doesn’t have anyone.

Q: Does a visit do more than just boost a resident’s spirits?

A: I don’t want to sound like a cliché. We always say, “There is no medication or ailment that can work better than tender loving care.” Those tiny expressions of care keep our residents going and are therapeutic.

Q: Do you get depressed this time of year when you see so many of your residents alone and sad?

A: I do and I don’t know a nursing home employee who doesn’t. We actually train our staff on how to deal with depression. Personally, I bring my children to the facility to volunteer and find ways of making the experience meaningful to the patients, my family and myself.

Q: A lot of people find nursing homes depressing and don’t to come. What would you say to them?

A: There is a lot of stigma sometimes associated with nursing homes. Nursing facilities have come a lot way over the years. They are places where you will see residents being involved in activities going on most times of the day.

Q: If someone wants to visit a nursing home, what should they do?

A: We encourage anyone who wants to visit to call a nursing facility and set up a time to visit.

Q: Is it appropriate to bring a gift?

A: Gifts can be appropriate but you need to check with the facility. We can also advise you what to bring. Some residents may have specific needs.

Q: We’ve talked about what visitors give nursing home residents. What do residents give visitors?

A: They give the gift of knowing that you have made a difference in someone’s life. That is priceless.

The Sunday Conversation is edited for length and clarity. Writer Ann Hardie can be reached by email at ann.hardie@ymail.com.

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