What do you think of when you hear the words "nursing home"? A few negative thoughts may be the first that come to mind. For many a nursing home is thought to be a scary, sad or often forgotten place. But local writer Mary Ellen Low is on a mission to change that.
A nurse for over 35 years, Low has just finished a book that was 10 years in the making. Dear God Letters From the Nursing Home was published on June 9, which was special because it was her mother's birthday, and is a fictional collection of letters to God based on her experiences and patients she's worked with.
"It's not a sad book either," explains Low, "there are a few tear jerkers but many funny stories too," The book covers a variety of topics from a young mother with breast cancer to the ten commandments of bingo.
Originally from Bayonne, N.J., Low moved to the DC area at 17 to attend Georgetown University where she got her nursing degree and pursued a career in pediatrics. After a few years on the job, she found working with young, terminally ill children to be quite draining and heartbreaking, that's when she turned to the opposite end of the nursing spectrum, as she calls it, and began caring for the elderly.
"It's your job to do for them what they can't do," Low explains, "that's the basics of nursing." She states that nursing is a calling that she knew she was meant to pursue.
Low originally started work at the Baptist Home in DC, and then moved on to Knollwood, which is a private military hospital where she stayed for 24 years while living in Silver Spring, Md. Most recently though, after her and her husband Robert moved to the area, Low has been working for the Shenandoah Center in Charles Town caring for a variety of patients from 20 to 106 years old.
With this book, Low hopes to break down barriers and do away with the traditional stigmas associated with nursing homes.
"I want people to know that it's a place to meet friends, comfort family members, get care and even die with dignity," explains Low.
Low now hopes to use the book as a way to give back to those in nursing homes. She's started doing fundraisers here and there, selling her book to raise money for local nursing facilities. Her next event will be held on Oct. 19 at Panera in Ranson from 2-4:30 p.m. and proceeds from the book will go towards Hospice of the Panhandle.