For 30 years, giving care, receiving love
Sue Gutsch of rural Lincolnville recently retired after spending the past 30 years caring for those in need of long-term care. After seven years at Marion Manor, she spent the past 23 years at St. Luke Living Center as a nurse aid and assistant activities director.
Gutsch worked at other part-time jobs, such as postmaster relief at Lincolnville and waitressing, before becoming a nurse aid. She was amazed to discover the satisfaction that caring for others brought to her life.
“The people at the facility gave me much more than I gave them,” she said.
She learned to know many people and became a part of their life. She also learned to know their families, and her family learned to know them.
“Everyone has their own story and brings something special,” she said.
When she talked to her children and grandchildren, she called the seniors “my residents.” During one such conversation, her granddaughter said, “Grandma, that’s where your friends live.”
Gutsch viewed her role as helping to make sure people continued to enjoy life rather than just coming there to die.
“It was a good feeling to go home at night and know that I could help someone do that,” she said.
Community involvement essential
One thing that gives St. Luke Living Center a high rating nationally is that it has a lot of community support and involvement, Gutsch said. Various groups and individuals volunteer their time to visit the center, provide entertainment and encouragement, and interact with the residents. Some even bring animals for them to enjoy.
“Children and pets are always a hit,” Gutsch said.
She and her husband, John, raised three daughters and a son. Members of Gutsch’s family often came to the center and took part in activities.
One Christmas morning, she brought her 12-year-old granddaughter to the center. The girl showed the residents her new iPod and all the tunes that were stored on it. Gutsch said her granddaughter, now 20, still remembers that experience.
One Fourth of July, her daughter and children visited the center and set off fireworks for the residents. Another time, she and two of her daughters and three grandchildren celebrated Christmas Eve with residents.
Gutsch said when she first started working as a nurse aid, it was difficult to see someone die, but she came to realize that death is part of a person’s earthly cycle. Sometimes, family members requested that she stay at the bedside of a dying loved one while they left for a brief time.
“I considered it a privilege,” she said.
She enjoyed watching young girls start as nurse aids and often return later as licensed practical nurses or registered nurses.
Gutsch retired on Feb. 28.
She never was required to learn to use a computer and had no desire to do so. Now, things are changing. Maintenance requests and various reports will be relayed by computer. She knew it was time to quit.
“Everything comes to an end,” she said. “I am 74 years old. My time had come.”
Lunch with old friends
Gutsch joined Living Center employees Robin Kukuk and Evey Williams at the Pizza Hut Thursday for lunch, along with a group of residents.
Although no longer a Living Center employee, she waited on the group, helping them find their places at the table and getting whatever they needed.
“We miss Sue,” resident Irene Werner said.
“It’s strange not seeing Sue every day,” Williams said. She and Gutsch were fellow workers for 24 years.
“Evey taught me everything I know,” Gutsch said.
One resident shared a troubling family situation with Gutsch, who listened with a sympathetic ear.
“Sometimes we have to dwell on what we can be thankful for,” Gutsch advised the woman.
Several residents gave her hugs before departing.
Gutsch praised the St. Luke Hospital Auxiliary for their support of the Living Center. Whenever a resident or the center has a special need for something, they are there to fill that need. Sometimes the auxiliary opens its downtown shop for residents to browse through.
“They take care of the center in wondrous ways,” she said.
She noted that employees try hard to give the best care possible.
“St. Luke’s motto should be, ‘If you care enough, come live at the very best,’” she said.
She encouraged other homemakers to get out and become involved in the community.
“You should never be afraid to step out and do something,” she said. “It might end up being the light of your life.”