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October: Message from the President – Stephen B. McPherson

October 1, 2011

I’m blessed to have two grown daughters. Both have promising careers, one in Washington, DC, the other New York City. When they were growing up, I was struck as a parent how society provided more opportunities for boys. Thankfully, through initiatives like Title IX, things have changed. I recall vividly the first time we watched the UCONN Lady Huskies play the Tennessee Volunteers. The rivalry provided an opening for a father to have “quality time” with his daughters — watching sports, talking strategy, the importance of teamwork, practice and dedication — not to mention providing female role models. It was Gino versus Pat; Rebecca Lobo and Jen Rizzotti taking on and defeating the established dynasty. Wonderful times.

The news over the past few weeks that longtime Tennessee coach Pat Summitt has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia brought back a flood of memories for me. Some go back twenty years, others a few months. Former Tennessee standout and current Connecticut Sun player Kara Lawson was quoted as saying, “Coach is about living the moment, enjoying people, maintaining relationships.” Another associate was quoted as saying, “Pat stands for excellence, strength, honesty, and courage.” I hope that through the bonding times of UCONN basketball, these life lessons have been instilled in my daughters.

My mother passed away in May on the dementia unit at the Masonicare Health Center. The times I spent with her there included times of reflection and times of celebration. During her last few weeks, life’s lessons that she and my father passed on to me and then I, in turn, to my daughters, became much clearer. “Excellence, strength, honesty and courage” are at the top of the list. Equally important are humility and respect. Lawson reflected on a situation when Summitt could have exploited her status at Tennessee; instead, she told Lawson, “That’s not how it works. You don’t ever act like you’re better than people or entitled to something. There is a time and place for everything.”

Dementia care is a major service provided by Masonicare. The majority of our apartments at Lockwood Lodge Assisted Livings in Newtown are for memory-impaired persons and 36 of the apartments at Pond Ridge Assisted Living at Ashlar Village in Walingford are also. Half the beds at Masonicare at Newtown and 120 beds at Masonicare Health Center are dedicated to helping patients and their families deal with this disease. And, increasingly, we are seeing younger patients with this heartbreaking diagnosis.

I’ve realized that this is where my personal and professional lives have come together. Over her last nine months, my mother was treated by the best caregivers our industry has to offer, starting with the home care team at Masonicare Home Health and then the staffs of Wooster 3 and 4 and the Acute Care Unit at Masonicare Health Center. Everywhere we turned, my mother and I encountered caring, compassionate, consummate professionals. Trying to install in my young daughters the values of excellence, strength, honesty and courage together with humility and respect for others, I hope I’ve succeeded. Experiencing firsthand the care my mother received, I know that these values are in the fabric of everyday life at Masonicare.