Can you imagine wanting something for dinner and no one understanding what it is you are asking for? What about someone writing a message on paper, but you did not attend school, so you do not understand what they are trying to tell you? Can you imagine trying to communicate with gestures sort of like playing charades? That is how many of the deaf elderly in Acadiana have lived out their last years for so long. However, that is changing, thanks to the owners of Amelia Manor Nursing home.
Through the persistence of two ladies, Ms. Paulette Guthrie and Glynis Kibodeaux, the lives of the senior deaf and deaf/blind community will be forever affected in a very positive way. While visiting deaf and deaf/blind people throughout Acadiana, Ms. Paulette Guthrie explains that their first signs to her were, I am the only one here, the only deaf person, and no one here knows my language!!!!” After Ms. Paulette communicated with far too many deaf people in this situation, a great idea became an invaluable plan- bring them all together where they would have each other, their OWN community.
Willie Belle Sarver, Alberta Lyons, as well as nursing home Administrator, Greg Sarver, embraced this challenge, and are opening their doors and their hearts to the deaf and deaf/blind community. The initial plan was to teach the nursing home staff some basic sign language, so they could serve this special population. However, as the demand for these services became more and more evident, and the number of residents being admitted with these needs grew rapidly, it was determined that specialized staff needed to be provided. In September of 2012, Glynis Kibodeaux was hired by Amelia Manor to work specifically with the deaf-blind population. Now that the program has grown over the last year, the goal is to be able to have staff with sign language ability around the clock. As a step towards that goal, Amelia Manor has hired deaf CNA’s to communicate with the residents. “Now we have the young deaf taking care of the elderly deaf and it’s a beautiful thing,” says Ms. Paulette Guthrie.
The Therapy Center has also played a part in accepting these residents with open arms. The therapy team is currently learning how to sign in order to better communicate with these patients, as many of them need services to help them improve their independence and daily activities. “They really seem to enjoy the fact that we want to learn,” says Kassie A., speech pathologist with The Therapy Center. Even though they can’t speak, some of them may have trouble with their memory that they need to address, and I want to be able to communicate better with them,” says Kassie.
Being able to live in a senior community with other elderly deaf and deaf/blind is a first time experience for these residents. For some of them, their final days will be spent in a community that will not only understand their needs, but will be better able to care for them, explains Paulette Guthrie.
For more information on the deaf and deaf/blind wing at Amelia Manor, please contact Paulette at (337)344-7970 or Glynis at Amelia Manor nursing home (337) 234-7331.