The walls of Joyce Storjohann’s office are bare. Despite a pile of plaques stacked neatly next to her computer, visitors would hardly be able to tell this has been her office for 30 years at the Ashley Manor Care Center in Boonville.
“They [the plaques] have been in the closet next door for some time now,” Social Service Director Storjohann said with a smile. “They’re fine. I hate when people make a big fuss, but I’ve been told to put them up.”
Storjohann received her most recent award last Thursday at the senior center’s “Meet and Greet” event. The faculty, partners and vendors of Ashley Manor welcomed eight new members to the management staff and honored Storjohann with an office name plate, plaque and a goody bag for her lifetime of dedicated service to the senior center and the residents past and present.
“She does it all,” said Twanda Story, the new administrator of Ashley Manor. “I am honored to have her on my team, because she is what social work and health care should be all about. She has a certain compassion you can’t teach or instill in people. I know she hates the attention.”
Storjohann family filled the audience to celebrate. Before her awards and three decades of work, Storjohann grew up in Boonville wanting to be an elementary teacher. It wasn’t until she quit her job working at a bookstore in Columbia to become a nurse aid at an elderly care center did she discover her natural ability for compassion.
“I didn’t know if I could do it,” Storjohann said. “It’s a tough job, but after I tried it, I just loved it. I got so attached to the residents and the staff and working with other nurse aids. If anyone should be celebrated it should be these nurse aids and the nurses because they work so hard. They are doing that direct care that is so important and so special.”
Storjohann frequently has residents waiting outside of her office to catch up or just hang out.
“She will drop everything she has paperwork wise and spend time with the residents during the day because they come to her,” Business Office Manager Tammy Shadwick said. “She will take it upon herself to come in, like Sunday night she came in at 11 p.m., and worked all night just so she would make time for the residence during the day. I don’t know what we’ll do if she ever decides to retire. There will never ever be someone like her.”
Caring for people at the end of their life seems to have a set of unwritten rules. Patience, humanity and grace are a few qualities that several members of the faculty at Ashley Manor associate with Storjohann. When the center welcomes new residents as frequently as they grieve the loss of old ones, maintaining these traits is nothing short of resilient.
“I see the new aids come in, and we have to help them with the grieving process, because it truly is a process for them, too,” Storjohann said. “They ask, how do you do this? I tell them that you will get to the point where you realize that, as the quality of life ends the quantity of life just comes second. So as they start to lose ground you put them on hospice to help them with that process. Make sure they’re comfortable first, after a while you’ll realize that it’s okay.”
Storjohann said the residents and the staff can endure the challenges that come with senior care by creating a comfortable and familial environment. Storjohann believes respect and curiosity for the individuals living at Ashley Manor is essential to the maintaining the compassion her work demands.
“This isn’t just a person who came in with a stroke and can’t walk anymore, but a person,” Storjohann said. “This is a person who raised seven children. She was a housewife, but she also worked at the school as a cook. She’s had some tragedy in her life, her husband passed away early, and she raised most of her children by herself. Once you know that, the connection just flows. They are family and it makes it so much easier.”
Ashley Manor provides both long-term and rehabilitative care for its residence. The Senior Care Day Program is currently being advertised by the new administration. The program provides adult day services which mirrors child care. People are able to drop off their loved one short-term and pick them back up at the end of the day.
“They become apart of our home,” Story said. “That translates over if they need to stay for the weekend, which is our respite program. We will do everything they need until you come and pick them up. People need to know you may not be able to let mom go to a nursing home, but this program is a way to slowly transition into that.”
Volunteers are encouraged to participate in programs such as the Senior Care Day program. The community can get involved by participating in the residents’ daily activities, and possibly find the love for helping others that lead Storjohann to her career 30 years ago.
“You get so much back,” said Storjohann. “Helping them helps you, it’s really true. You get to a point where you realize that. I think that’s why a lot of people stay, it’s because of the feeling you get back. Human compassion is what’s the most important thing, and you get it back in so many different ways here. It has to be one of the most unique places to work.”