New book reveals lessons learned in nursing homes

Posted Aug. 15, 2012, at 10:08 a.m.

Jennifer Collins Weisheit has a gift: She has the ability to turn tragedy into triumph and then tell the tale with inspiring fashion.

She has braved anxiety, depression, panic attacks, poor self-esteem, a divorce from her 42-year first marriage, and the selling of her home. Yet, she is able to turn adversity into an example of courage.

To fulfill a deep desire, Weisheit earned her certification as a spiritual director and feels that spiritual counseling is her true calling. Advice given to her by Father William Jarema turned her to a new role: that of writer. He said, “Jennifer, you need to write this book. It will warm many hearts and dry many tears.”

Weisheit put fingers to a keyboard and “Then Sings my Song: How I found God in a Nursing Home” was born. Her book is a journey through her life as a certified activity director in a number of nursing homes.

This book is filled with lessons Weisheit learned from the residents in the nursing homes where she inspired them daily, and they her. Being musical by nature, she started a choir while at Ross Manor, prior to moving to Stillwater Healthcare, several years ago. She recalls a day when an event for residents was cancelled. Determined not to let down the residents for whom activities were so important, she enlisted Joseph Weisheit, activities assistant, to play the piano while she sang.

The residents began to sing along, and Jennifer spontaneously started directing them and the Community Choir was born. And love blossomed as well. Jennifer and Joe later married after bonding over providing activities for the residents they both love.

One example of the power of music comes from Janet, a petite woman of about 75 pounds with significant physical challenges. She motors around Stillwater Healthcare in her power chair brightening everyone’s day with her sparkling personality. Even though she cannot speak nor sing, she comes to choir practice religiously and plays her tambourine or maraca.

“Janet sings with her eyes, her smile and her wiggling feet,” said Weisheit. “The choir is a chance for her inner star to shine and for her to show people her unique gifts.” Janet doesn’t wallow in sadness about the body in which she lives. Instead she embraces her life and considers herself “perfectly whole” taking pride in being able to inspire others about self-acceptance.

“What a life lesson I learned from her,” said Weisheit.

It is examples like this one, of the gifts residents in nursing homes can still share, that make this book so special.

“My book is filled with heartwarming stories which honor the lives of seniors who have been placed in an assisted living facility, adult day programs or nursing homes,” said Weisheit. “The stories have been gleaned from decades of working with elders who are ill, frail, or have dementia. I have been blessed to share my life with them as an administrator, an activities director and spiritual director.”

Along with tender engaging stories of life in a nursing home, Weisheit also designed this book to be an “educational tool” for family members of elders who require long-term care and a guidebook on how nursing homes operate.

“She connected with her spirituality while caring for the residents in the nursing home and she learned that it’s all about giving back and giving freely with your heart,” said Juanita Taylor, activity director at Dirigo Pines, Orono. “The book was written with so much heart and the intent was to share some of the special moments that she had while working with residents.”

This book has something for everyone. Pick it up at Book Marc’s and Lambs Book and Bible Store, Bangor, Penobscot Times, Old Town or through Amazon.com.

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