Caregiver’s Journey: In the Handicapped Zone

by Anne Gross

When I was young, I loved to go shopping with my mother.  I remember one day in particular when we went to my favorite store, Pixie Town, to buy a dress for a party I was attending.   Whenever my mother went out, she always had to find a parking space near the store; it would never work for her to park even a block away. This was the 1960s, several decades before the Americans with Disabilities Act mandated handicap accessible curbs, and my mother, who relied on a wheelchair to get around, was paralyzed from the waist down.

We were lucky that morning as we found a parking spot right in front of the store. Making our way inside, we became engrossed in examining the frothy creations that hung on the racks.  Suddenly, I heard a small gasp and turned to see a child, aged five or six, gawking, open-mouthed, at my mother.   A sickening wave of embarrassment swept over me, and I wanted to leave.  But I knew not to suggest that to my mother, as she sat there, unfazed, barely taking her eyes off the rack.

It’s ironic that I was self-conscious about her disability, as the unstated message in our house was that we were never to think of ourselves as being different from other families, and we certainly weren’t encouraged to discuss my mother’s impairment.  Of course, I knew the basics:  my mother became paralyzed as a result of contracting polio at the age of two; that she had had surgery as a young child to strengthen her back, also weakened by the polio virus; and that, as a child in the late 1920s, she had spent time at Warm Springs, the rehabilitation center in Georgia founded by Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Growing up, I yearned to talk to her about all of this, but my tentative questions were always met with an angry look, and soon enough I stopped asking.

Yet over the years, questions about my mother’s  life tugged at me with increasing frequency.  Although she was remarkable in what she had achieved –she raised two children and had a successful career as a musician – I always sensed she was gripped by an impenetrable sense of sadness that if acknowledged, would have crushed her.  Although in my 20s I repeatedly resolved to ask her again, my behavior always fell short of my intentions.

When I was 33 my mother died.  After the funeral, my father honored her wishes and sent me the journals she had kept, starting in her fifth decade, which she had never shared with any one. Curious, I sat down at my kitchen table and began to read.  Although I was fascinated to read about the particulars of her life, what really struck me was the self-hatred that infused her writing. She wrote about dragging her “crippled body around with a dumb smile” on her face, how “ugly” she was, as well as feeling consumed that she was a “bad and deviant” person.

I felt sick as I realized that the humiliation I had experienced that day in Pixie Town was similar to how my mother felt every day of her life: shamed, flawed, and less of a person than everybody else. Sitting at the kitchen table, I vowed that day to learn everything I could about my mother’s life.  What I gleaned from this journey – from what it was like to live with polio in the first part of the twentieth century to my mother never being able to share with others her experience of being confined to a wheelchair – I will write about in a series of future posts.

Image from Stockimages on

Reader’s Choice Nominee for the Best of the Best – Please Vote for Us!!

by Jeanine Genauer

This year we here at Juniper Communities are feeling very honored, as our Juniper Village at Shenango Inn was announced as a nominee for the Shenango Valley Reader’s Choice Awards, “Best of the Best!”  In order to gain the nomination enough people had to suggest us to be included for the award.  The nominees were listed in the Sharon Herald in the month of March.  The announcement of the winner will be later this month.  Although we will be super excited to win, we are truly honored for the nomination!

To vote all you have to do is call 724-981-6100 and ask The Herald for the form to fill out. Please vote for us!!

Believe in Yourself: April Events

by Diane Byrne

April, the month where we play innocent pranks on April Fool’s Day; celebrate Springtime and Easter with egg hunts, brunches, and church; pay homage to mother earth on Earth Day; and welcome the return of America’s favorite pastime – Baseball. This month we embark on a new quarter in our Alive in All Seasons calendar where we celebrate Healthy Aging and will “Let Wellbeing Thrive”. Throughout April our focus is on the brain and honoring the theme “Believe in Yourself”. Did you know that activities that are good for your heart are also good for your brain? The American Heart Association tells us that protecting memory and brain health is a matter of keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy. Regular cardio exercise and a healthy diet not only keep your heart happy, but your brain too.

This month’s offerings include activities and events that will keep our bodies and brains healthy and renew our faith in ourselves. Educational opportunities will cover brain health topics such as brain booster activities and ways to keep fit. We will rejoice in our individuality and celebrate ourselves through life affirming reminiscent and creative activities while reminding each other to “Believe in Yourself”.

Please join us for our Easter celebrations at most Village communities throughout the month; our Fish Friday Fundraiser benefiting the Alzheimer’s Association in Forest Hills on April 11th from 4 pm to 6 pm; our Pulse of the Office Event in Louisville on April 23rd from noon to 1:30 pm (RSVP to 303-665-3722 for a free massage or drop by for lunch and drinks); our Spring Fling with an Oxygen Bar (and a Real Bar!) in Cape Coral on April 24th at 3:30 pm; our Wellness Fair and Open House featuring a performance by our Joyful Noise Choir in Lebanon on April 30th from 12 pm to 3 pm; or any of our Villages’ other activities (see each Village’s Newsletter for a complete listing – all times listed here are local time for that community).


H’Art and Soul of Dining – New Menus with Delicious Recipes!

by Diane Byrne

We are proud to announce that on April 5th our revitalized spring/summer menus will begin for our H’Art and Soul of Dining Signature Program at all of our communities. This new signature program will help us improve quality of life and whole person wellness for the individuals that call Juniper Village home. We are very excited this season since the offerings will feature a delicious 5-week entrée select option featuring fabulous new choices using some of the fresh products available through our food vendors. Also, on our updated menus, we have added many lighter alternatives as well as recipes specific to each community that take into account special diets, regional tastes, food committee requests and our resident’s special needs and personal requests. These changes to our meal plans significantly increase the variety of selections provided for our residents while focusing upon scratch made offerings and heart-healthy meals. Furthermore, in celebration of our AIAS spring quarter “Healthy Aging,” our Grill Menus will be re-vamped to highlight healthier offerings throughout the season. In addition we will be implementing an innovative hydration assurance program served from our “Oasis Carts,” featuring a variety of flavored waters using citrus or mint or cucumbers, fresh brewed iced tea, lemonade, punch, smoothies and juices as well as nutritious snacks.

Below are some of the recipes featured on our new menu:

Carrot-Currant Muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour (to measure, spoon into a cup and level)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup carrot juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup dried currants
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners. In a large bowl whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl whisk together butter, egg, milk, carrot juice and vanilla. Pour the egg mixture over the dry ingredients and gently fold just until moistened. Fold carrots and dried currants into the mix. Scoop batter into the muffin pan and bake until golden brown and firm to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from pan (cool on a wire rack if you have one).

Yellow Squash Soup
Cooking Spray
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup diced yellow squash
3 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasonings
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (15 ounce) can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 ounce) can diced no-salt-added tomatoes
Coat a large saucepan with cooking spray. Heat over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes. Add zucchini and yellow squash; sauté 3 minutes. Add all other ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes.