Some Self-Reg Learning At A Synagogue Service

As I mentioned in my recent blog post, I now see almost everything through a self-regulation lens. I was thinking of that this weekend when I went to visit my dad at a nursing home in Toronto. Just before I left, I went with him downstairs to the basement to attend a synagogue service. Since it was the beginning of Passover, there were many additional people at this morning service, and all of the employees in the room were working hard to meet various needs.

  • First, I watched three nurses sit down with residents and help them finish their breakfast. All three nurses, whispered quietly to the residents as they reminded them how to hold utensils and how to chew food safely. The nurses gently touched the residents on their arm or rubbed their back. I can’t help but wonder if their quiet voices and gentle touches helped these residents feel calm.
  • Then I watched two nurses that were worried about one resident that wasn’t eating his breakfast. Apparently he hasn’t been eating a lot lately. One nurse mentioned that his wife — that used to live in this nursing home with him — recently passed away. I wonder if he’s grieving. Could this be a hidden stressor? Could his interest in food be declining because of his emotions?
  • After that, I saw the rabbi go up to the different residents and ask them what they would like to drink for the service. He had a large selection of different juices in front of him. One resident looked at him and said, “I’ll take a vodka.” When the rabbi mentioned jokingly that, “Liquor wasn’t being served until after 10:00,” he said that he’d settle for an orange juice … but would ask for the vodka later. 🙂 I keep thinking about the benefits of humour, and how this resident’s joke might not only help him feel better, but might relax some of his peers too. On my most challenging days, a chance to chuckle — especially a great big belly laugh — always makes me feel calmer. I also think though about this man’s request for alcohol. Recently I read this blog post by Stuart Shanker on the “Self-Reg View Of Obesity.” I wonder if junk food could almost be replaced with alcohol for similar reasons, and if again, we need to “reframe the problem” in order to get to the reason for this craving in the first place. Why might he have wanted the vodka?
  • Finally, I saw the residents that were reluctant to accept help. I saw one man that barely had the strength to pick up a mug, but was determined to drink his coffee on his own. The nurse kept asking if she could hold if for him. She kept trying to support the bottom of the cup. But he refused all of her help, and in the end, she cleaned up many spills and changed a tablecloth too. I saw another man that was determined to lead part of the service. He was in a wheelchair, and the rabbi tried to tilt the bimah, but it wouldn’t go down far enough for him to read the prayer from his chair. He wheeled his chair up, and propped himself against the bimah so that he could read the prayer. The rabbi tried to support him. Another visitor tried to help, but this resident pushed both of them away because he wanted to stand up there on his own. In both of these cases, you could tell that the “caring adults” — if they were a nurse, a rabbi, or a visitor — were feeling stressed because the residents were ignoring their requests. As a teacher of young children, I understood. Isn’t this how I feel if a student ignores me? A conversation with some nurses afterwards gave me a different perspective though.

While I could make so many connections between what happened here and classroom/school experiences, there was one very important difference: the residents in this nursing home are adults. They could do before what they maybe can’t do now. Imagine what they’re thinking and feeling. What does it mean for them if they give up control? I think about how residents might self-regulate at a nursing home. What might they do? What impact might self-regulation have on quality of life? Just before I left the nursing home yesterday, one of the residents turned to talk to me. We’ve met each time that I visit my dad, and she’s always very kind to me. Yesterday, she squeezed my hands and said, “Don’t ever get old. It’s no fun being old.” I had to choke back tears. How could we change this perspective? Is it possible? I’d like to believe that it is.


2 thoughts on “Some Self-Reg Learning At A Synagogue Service

  1. Wow great post Aviva. It is very easy to compare some seniors to children, life is a full circle and how difficult it must be not to be able to take care of oneself. Not so sure about he alcohol part…I think there is such a thing as just enjoying it!

    • Thank you so much, Sandy! I agree with you about life being “full circle,” and I definitely saw that this weekend. As for the alcohol part, I wonder if it’s a case of why we’re choosing to drink (just like eat). Is it because we enjoy it or because we need it? Could we choose to not have it, and would that be okay? If not, why do we need this drink (or this food, or really any other item), and does this “why” help us get to the bottom of the problem/issue?


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