Where Patients Are Like Family

(from left) Staffers Jolynn Chew, Bridget Collins, Sharla Hasegawa, Rebecca O’Brien, Aimee Leong and Mike Perel. Coco Zickos photo

This state-run long-term care facility is hosting a kupuna health and safety fair Friday, and it’s inviting all kupuna to a fun and educational day

Employees at Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital have their patients’ best interests at heart.

“We’re a very caring place,” says social worker Aimee Leong. “We try to create as much of a home-like environment as possible.”

The staff of 140 cares for some 60 long-term care residents at any given time.

“I really love our patients and residents,” says occupational therapist Sharla Hasegawa. “They become part of our family. My approach to care is to treat them as if they were my mother, father, grandfather or grandmother.”

Registered Nurse Rebecca O’Brien agrees.

“The family feeling here is so strong that it is a privilege to be a part it,” she says.

Leong, a Kaua’i native, also appreciates the quality of care residents receive at the state-owned facility.

Caring for kupuna is a passion she shares with others at the hospital.

After pursuing a higher education, she returned to Kaua’i to care for her elderly parents. Even though they have since passed, it didn’t stop her from wanting to care for other kupuna.

“I still want to take care of Kaua’i,” she says. “It’s just time for me to give back, and this is a good way to do it.”

Leong will be one of the many employees participating in the SMMH “Passport to Kupuna Health & Safety Fair” this week.

“It’s an opportunity to make a difference for each of the residents I work with and encounter every day,” says RN Jolynn Chew about the event.

In celebration of the hospital’s 95th birthday, the fair presents a chance for staff to engage the community in its affairs and enlighten others about aging.

“We felt as if this would be the perfect opportunity to focus on health and focus on safety,” says Chew. “If we can educate the community, especially the elderly, to maintain hydration, prevent falls and educate them on all the resources available within the community, then everyone else will benefit.

“We hope that we can provide information, little take-aways that the kupuna can take home and make reference to.”

The family event also provides a chance for the public to see the hospital and tour its grounds.

“It’s important to me to change the way people look at nursing homes,” says Chew. “It’s not a sterile institution.”

Faculty also looks forward to attending the fair to gain further knowledge of their patients and how to properly care for them.

It may even encourage staff to adopt various residents and give them the extra attention they may not be receiving from family or friends.

The kupuna are an important part of our society, says Chew.

They hold knowledge that could potentially be lost forever if connections with them are not made.

That message is one of many that SMMH employees hope to convey.

Providing a true sense of home is another message staff tries to instill at the hospital and it’s one they would like participants to glean from the fair.

“It’s a good showcase for our grounds and it’s a way to open the doors so that other people can see what the potential is for when it’s their loved ones’ turn, if it comes to that,” says O’Brien. “It really is a lot more home feeling than when you just drive by.”

“Passport to Kupuna Health & Safety” senior fair will be held May 4 from 9 a.m. to noon at SMMH in Kapa’a. Various activities like Zumba Gold will be available, as well as talks regarding diet and preventing falls. Call 822-4961 for details.