Love can strike when you least expect it.

Love can strike when you least expect it.

Brian Listwan never expected that he would fall in love with caring for those with Alzheimer’s, but he did, and now he’s Alzheimer’s care director at the Golden Living Center.

He was born in Addison, Ill., one of the northwestern suburbs of Chicago. “It’s about 15 minutes from O’Hare Airport,” Listwan said.

He did well in high school, guided by the positive examples set by his older sister and brother, and was a three-sport athlete for three years. After high school he joined the U.S. Army Reserves, again following family example.

“We’re a pretty military family,” Listwan said. “My brother is out now, but my sister is still in the National Guard. Both our grandfathers served in the U.S. Navy, and a couple of uncles are in the military.”

He underwent EMT/medic training in San Antonio, Texas, then was sent to nursing school in Washington, D.C.
“I didn’t know that nursing and especially long-term care would be my calling when I enlisted,” Listwan said. “I didn’t even know what an LPN was, but I’m very happy with what came of it.”

Three years ago he moved his family to Pittsburg, and started working as an evening charge nurse at Golden Living Center.

“I found the Alzheimer’s unit and fell in love with it,” Listwan said. “As challenging as it can be, the rewards are far greater than the challenges. We strive to improve the quality of a person’s life and help maintain the person they are, and not let the disease process overshadow their essence.”

He said that the unit follows a social model and focuses on activities and life’s simple pleasures.

“We work to make each day the best that we can for our residents,” he said. “We try to focus on making sure each person feels as individual as they can. Breakfast is served at 7:30 a.m., but many sleep in longer than that. Today one of our residents ate breakfast at 10 a.m.”

He noted that keeping Alzheimer’s patients on a regimen is good for Alzheimer’s patients, up to a point.

“Some nursing homes may have a more rigid environment, but here we try to adapt the environment to the residents,” he said.

Listwan said that a great deal of scientific study goes into designing the best environments and care of persons with Alzheimer’s, including colors and placement of objects.

“Residents take their cues from everything in their environment,” he explained, pointing out a Christmas decoration above the door to a den with comfortable chairs and a TV set. “In October we had a Halloween decoration there, and the residents know that the den is on that side of the hall.”

Shadow boxes holding family photos and mementos are placed outside each resident’s room. These help with maintaining memories, and assist residents in finding their rooms.

“We try to do as many activities as we can, focusing on the residents’ strengths, rather than on their weaknesses,” Listwan said. “We want them to stay as independent as they can.”

This year, residents made paper ornaments for their Christmas tree, and had a Christmas party on Dec. 9.

“Over 100 family members and visitors came, and the party was a huge success,” Listwan said. “In a situation like this, you get to know the family and family structure. After a while, they become like a part of our extended family.”

He especially cherishes their cards and expression of gratitude.

“When family members come in and say, ‘Thank you, you’re doing a good job,’ it means so much to the staff,” Listwan said. “I’ve had families say, ‘We couldn’t do this any longer, we’re so glad you’re here’. At our next facility in-service, I’ll be sharing with the staff a very nice card I received from the family of a resident who recently passed away. I want to give a sincere thanks to each and every staff member of Golden Living who takes care of residents day in and day out.”

The facility is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and that includes Christmas Day.

“Our residents will open their presents Christmas morning with hot cocoa and cinnamon rolls, and if they want to be in their pajamas, that’s fine,” Listwan said.

However, he won’t be there. He and his three-year-old son will be heading to Chicago for a family holiday celebration.

“This will be the first time in five years that we’ll all be together for Christmas, and I’m very excited about that,” Listwan said.

He repeated that his family has had a deep influence upon him.

“My father’s work ethic is amazing, and my grandparents stressed that whatever I start I should do right and do it from start to finish,” he said. “I also carry on the Army values that were ingrained in me.”

As much as he looks forward to the family holiday, he’ll also be happy to return to work.

“I see a long future in nursing and nursing administration, and I enjoy coming to work here every day,” Listwan said. “If I ever develop Alzheimer’s, I hope my family finds a place like Golden Living Center for me. I’d be proud to live in a place like this.”