Helena Sudina went to the picnic for nursing home residents at the Fort Howard Veterans Administration Medical Center even though her husband, Chuck, died at the facility six months ago.
"These people are my family," Sudina said yesterday, gesturing toward the guests at the hospital's eighth annual picnic. "I have so many friends here. You just get so close."
Fort Howard spokeswoman Laurie Bailey said the event at the eastern Baltimore County facility helps patients and their families maintain the bonds that moving into a nursing home often disrupt.
"We see this as an opportunity for patients and their family members to focus
on the importance of family units," Bailey said.
She said activities like the picnic help enhance visits because it takes family members and patients beyond the visitors' lounge and helps family cohesiveness because it is like a family outing.
Sudina said that the relationships she built with other patients and their families were crucial to her surviving her husband's stay at Fort Howard, which began almost four years ago. She also said that it was refreshing to know that other families and members of the staff could understand her frustrations, struggles, sadness and fears.
"I don't know how I could have made it without it," Sudina said. "I can't praise this place enough."
Marian Tucker agreed, several times
referring to the staff and patients and their families as her family. A Baltimore resident, she visits her husband, Vernander, regularly. She said the closeness with people at Fort Howard is crucial to making her husband's stay at the facility pleasurable.
"Even though he's not at home, he still has a family -- not only his immediate family, but other people around him," Tucker said.
Matthew Miller, one of the nursing home's 47 patients and a Korean War veteran, said that he liked the friendly atmosphere at Fort Howard. "I enjoy the people," he said. "It's good to see people from the outside."
Miller said visitors energize patients.
Entertainment yesterday was provided by the Bykota Senior Dancers, a square dance group, and Peggy Osman, "the Sweetheart from Dundalk" who sings country and western music.