Through photos, Hill-Murray connects to memory care patients

| Anthony Gockowski for The Catholic Spirit | March 10, 2015 | 0 Comments
Sierra Arradondo, right, a ninth-grader at Hill-Murray School in Maplewood, helps Anne Fearing, a resident at Thomas T. Feeney Manor in Minneapolis, put together a memory book Feb. 26. Arradondo came with other classmates to work with residents. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Sierra Arradondo, right, a ninth-grader at Hill-Murray School in Maplewood, helps Anne Fearing, a resident at Thomas T. Feeney Manor in Minneapolis, put together a memory book Feb. 26. Arradondo came with other classmates to work with residents. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

“He used to be a dishwasher!”

The surprised voice of Mady Rogers, a freshman at Hill-Murray School in Maplewood, carried across the banquet room where she was flipping through black-and-white photos with her partner, a senior citizen whose life was unfolding via his snapshots: his job as a dishwasher, his father riding in a new Chevrolet, soldiers sipping whiskey at a ceasefire.

Rogers placed the photos into a book of memories. Across the room, her freshman classmates did the same for their partners, all Thomas T. Feeney Manor residents living with dementia.

The Feb. 26 memory-care project was part of the high school’s ongoing collaboration with Augustana Care, a Christian non-profit with more than 20 senior housing and health care communities in the Twin Cities.

The project, making memory books, was the brainchild of several Hill-Murray students who wanted to make a lasting impact on the residents of the manor, an assisted living and memory care facility for low-income older adults, owned by the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority.

“It [the project] is a reminder of who has always been there and that they always have someone to go to,” Rogers said.

Augustana Care staff hopes to use the memory books in the future.

“It is a unique response to the difficulties that come with dementia,” said Mary Jo Thorne, Augustana Care regional housing director. “The memory books are designed to stir memories and aid staff members during future [patient] spark ups.”

The intergenerational dialogue also taught students patience and gratitude.

“It lets students see there’s good for everyone,” added Thorne, a parishioner of Transfiguration in Oakdale. “No matter what stage of life you are in you have valuable information to share.”

It is a lesson Thorne hopes to instill in her daughter, Hannah, a Hill-Murray freshman who collaborated with classmates to plan the event.

“The books make it easy to remember family and loved ones they have had,” Hannah said.

Hill-Murray’s various service projects aid the students’ spiritual growth, said Benedictine Sister Linda Soler, Hill-Murray’s director of campus ministry and student service coordinator.

“Each student lives the beatitudes through service,” she said. “We encourage our students to use their God-given gifts and talents to cultivate a spirit of service and outreach to others.”

Mary Jo Thorne hopes Hill-Murray and Augustana Care will continue their collaboration to bring this project to other locations. She is excited to see the good that will come from the memory books.

“I just love it,” she said. “It brings tears to my eyes.”

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