This is an example of the photos Dr. Randi Berg compiled for a special gift for Leslie Elsbernd and her daughter, Claire. They feature a Harmony Care Center resident and words of advice given to the new mother. Millie Kyseth advised, "Sing a song while rocking your child. Mom should rest while baby is sleeping."  COURTESY OF RANDI BERG
This is an example of the photos Dr. Randi Berg compiled for a special gift for Leslie Elsbernd and her daughter, Claire. They feature a Harmony Care Center resident and words of advice given to the new mother. Millie Kyseth advised, "Sing a song while rocking your child. Mom should rest while baby is sleeping." COURTESY OF RANDI BERG
In an effort to welcome Leslie Elsbernd as a new geriatrics physician assistant at the Harmony Community Healthcare, staff and residents participated in putting together a parenting scrapbook for her as she was also expecting her first child.

The project began in the fall of last year during her maternity leave and was presented to her at a baby shower given in her honor in January. Dr. Randi Berg, medical director of the care center, took it one step further and photographed each resident.

A composite portrait was then made of each resident by incorporating their words of advice into the photograph.

The idea

After Elsbernd joined the staff in the summer of 2013, the staff from many different departments made a group decision to put together pieces of advice on how to be a parent from some of the care center's residents. Dr. Randi Berg helped formulate the idea and worked the photography end of the project.

"It was a way to welcome Leslie and help her get more acquainted with the residents and the residents with her," she stated. "While we went around asking residents if they would be willing to participate, we emphasized that she was not coming for just a few months and leaving, but she would be back."

The interviewing

About 25 residents and 10 staff members assisted in the production of the book. Five staff each interviewed five residents of different ages. Participation was not limited to those who had had children, since the staff knew that even those who had not been parents themselves still had a wealth of life experiences to draw upon for advice.

"We had a blast," said Shelly Dolley, head of the dietary department. "Some talked about funny things that had happened to them in their past and just reminisced. Some talked for a half-hour and others for a few minutes. If they did not have anything to put into the book for advice, the interview was quite short."

The staff enjoyed speaking to the residents about their lives and histories, while the residents enjoyed playing a vital role in this unique project.

"One fear care center residents may have is the feeling that they are no longer needed by society," Berg related. "This project seems to have struck a cord with them and highlights the fact that they are still very capable of contributing in beautiful and meaningful ways to the larger community."

The chance to remember also brings about a therapeutic effect for the residents. One resident shared a story about losing one of her children to cancer and how painful that experience was.

In each case, Dr. Berg photographed the resident to put their advice with their faces.

The scrapbook was especially meaningful to Elsbernd. "The scrapbook is a great way to remember the residents who I have worked with, some of who have already passed away," she said. "My mother and mother-in-law were very touched when I showed it to them, and I look forward to my daughter, Claire, being able to appreciate it when she is older."

The scrapbooking

The project did not simply become a notebook of advice or writing on printed paper. Dolley loves to scrapbook and has a whole room in her house dedicated to her hobby. As the idea grew, she volunteered her services to create an unusual and exciting parenting scrapbook.

"Gathering the information from the residents took about a week to 10 days. The scrapbooking took a few weeks of off-and-on work," Dolley said.

The gift

On Jan. 14, the staff and residents gathered to celebrate the birth of Elsbernd's new baby, Claire. Her husband was also able to attend. One of the presents given was the scrapbook.

"I did not know about the scrapbook in advance, it was a surprise gift at the baby shower," Elsbernd said.

"Leslie loved the book. She appreciated it a great deal," Dolley stated.

"I am at the Harmony Nursing Home three days a week, so I feel like I have been able to get to know some of the residents pretty well," Elsbernd related. "I was so flattered and honored, though, that they would put on a shower and make the scrapbook after only having known me for about six months."

Everyone delighted in having a shower for the young family. Oftentimes, residents of medical care facilities brighten up after seeing a baby. Some applauded Elsbernd's husband for accompanying his family to the baby shower that day.

"He was very patient and looked to be very proud of his family," one of the residents said.

The advice

There were many different kinds of advice given in this special book and attached to the gift was a set of hand-crocheted booties for the baby, made by one of the residents.

"I think the best quotes were 'just hold her,' and 'buy her pretty things,'" she stated. "The most touching advice came from a resident who passed away only a couple days before I received the scrapbook. He said to sing to my child. He had four daughters and was such a kind and compassionate man, so I knew that this was good advice. He and I had gotten to know each other well in the weeks before he died as I would see him every few days as his health was failing."

Much of the advice given by the residents was to make memories and photos, love the baby and sing to her. Other advice was to rock the baby in a rocking chair, sleep while the baby sleeps, do not worry so much about germs and more.

Other specific words of advice given were, "Buy pretty clothes for your baby. Be patient with your child. Teach her how to play;" "If she gets colicky, use peppermint candy canes. Put them in a bottle with a little water and give it to her. The colic will go away" and "Don't get excited every time she cries. It's good for her to cry sometimes, it gives her exercise."

The benefit

Each person involved in the project appreciated the time spent gathering information and the ability to provide the young mother with such a unique book of advice.

"Residents get self-worth knowing their words and faces are remembered, and that they are interesting, beautiful and valuable people," Berg concluded.

An exhibit of the photographs of the residents will be on display at the Harmony Public Library from April 7 to April 25. The exhibit will then move to the Lanesboro Public Library where it can be viewed from April 28 to May 16.. The public is invited to take a look at the exhibit during library hours.