They might be endearing and funny, or way too needy and demanding at
How do we respond to our elderly guests at our casinos? Better than their own children? It’s possible.
Before my mom passed away last December, she had a one-month stint in a
rehab/long-term care facility, before returning home. One of the activities for the
patients was a monthly trip to a local casino — Terrible’s Rail City Casino, in Sparks,
NV. The program director said that it was the most popular activity they offered —
and that it always filled up fast, with mostly wheelchair-bound patients.
Later, Barry Phillips, Rail City’s Vice President and General Manager, told me that
although they didn’t do anything “special” when the bus arrived, he noticed that his
employees kept a special eye out for them, making sure they felt safe (as some
would get confused). And that “it seemed that they really enjoyed getting out and
On the one hand, the whole thing made me sad; one friggin’ outing a month to look
forward to. And if you didn’t sign up in time, you’d miss the chance to “break out” for
awhile. (If you haven’t read Water for Elephants, you should).
It did make me grateful, however, to know that there were employees who cared
about these unique customers. I know my mom used to relish going to her favorite
local casino before she was too ill to go.
I learned a lot from my mom during her last year — mainly that it really, really sucks
to be dependent, and even when your body betrays you, it doesn’t mean that you’ve
lost your marbles. And instead of getting respect for your years of experience, most
people, often your own family, feel like they know what’s better for you than you do.
Caregivers would often defer to me, instead of talking directly to my mom. And often
it was only my voice that would get her what she needed.
But doctors and caregivers aren’t perfect, just like family members aren’t perfect
I regret that in the last months of my mom’s life, I took more “care” of her than
actually talking to her as a friend and as a person. She had lived with me and my
husband for the last seven years, but had been mostly independent. So this
caregiver role was pretty new to me.
I’d get so caught up in doing all the “right things” — I felt like I needed a medical
degree to make sure I was not over-medicating her; I was constantly trying to get her
to eat properly; scheduling the right appointments; keeping her room, clothing and
linens clean. Oh yeah, and I was still trying to hold up my end of things here at
Now, in my “shoulda, woulda, coulda” stage, I wish I would have stopped cleaning
and just sat with her to watch old M.A.S.H. reruns.
My friends have tried to console me, telling me that being a caregiver for a parent is
difficult and that there is no such thing as being “perfect”; you just do the best that
But I could have done better.
One of the dynamic changes between me and my mom was that when I was being
“Nurse Faria,” I in turn would get “Patient Maggie.” When my friends came over to
visit my mom, she would brighten up and be back to her “old self.” This tough patient
that I sometimes complained about, was a “delight to be around” as Amy
Hergenrother would tell me. It hurt me that my friends could bring out the best in my
mom, and I, the one who was trying the hardest, would just irritate her.
Months later, I better understand the psychology of what happened between us. But
it wasn’t until just recently, when I was “giving some love” to a friend of mine’s
parent, that I found some real comfort. I was thoroughly fascinated by her story and I
think she told me things that her own daughter didn’t even know. Just like my mom
probably did with my friends. She seemed to really enjoy talking to me as well.
You know, it is sometimes just easier to show kindness, patience and interest in
someone else’s parent than your own. You don’t live with them; their tales are new,
you haven’t heard the same story over and over again since you were a kid.
I can’t tell you how much my mom loved my girlfriends coming over and chatting with
her, not just in her final months. They laughed with her, they listened to her stories of
being a WAC and growing up during the Depression, and towards the end, her very
strange dreams. They held her hand and stayed until she was too tired to talk
anymore. They didn’t leave because they had pressing laundry to do. They gave her
kindness and love in a different way than I could.
Just like many of you do for the elderly guests that come to your casino. Their time
spent with you, the respect and kindness that you show to them is something, I
betcha, they don’t get enough of at home — hell, there might not be anyone left at
After spending time with someone else’s mom, and after many months of grief, I
finally felt like I had something to share that might bring others comfort.
Kindness balances out and fills the gaps.
See, maybe you might be beating yourself up since you don’t have as much
patience with your elderly parent as you might like. So, you let your friends help.
Their biggest gift can be spending time with your loved one, while you tackle the
laundry or take a breather. Their outside perspective, their distraction, their listening
skills are more powerful than you can ever know.
And you know what; you’ll return the same favor to them, or to your elderly guests at
work. You will fill a gap for someone else.
It is never too late to be kind. It is never too late to pull up a chair.
I can tell you this. I’m so glad for the times that I finally did stop and take my mom’s
hand and tell her how much I still needed her and let her comfort me. I’ll always hold
those conversations and moments close to my heart.
Having to take care of the person who has always taken care of you, who has
always loved you unconditionally; well, it breaks your heart and takes you to your
knees with grief. And you get angry, and you get impatient and you get bone tired
and you just want it to go back to how it was. So all you can do is try as hard as you
can and let your friends help you.
Thank you to all those special people in my life that gave me and Mom the biggest of
gifts: thank you for taking the time to call, to send pictures of your babies, to sit by
my mom’s bedside when she needed it the most. And thank you to all of you that, on
a daily basis, treat your customers and guests with such kindness and respect and
listen to them. There is some daughter or son out there that appreciates you as well.
I promise to pay it forward.