For Kenny Johnson working as a shahbaz is a role he has mastered not only at St. John’s Home, but in all aspects of his life. His title as a shahbaz, or ‘universal care worker,’ extends beyond the walls of St. John’s Home. For over 10 years Kenny has worked in the customer service industry and understands the importance of serving others. As a father to twin one-year-old daughters, working as a night manager at Taco Bell, and serving as a full-time shahbaz, Kenny has given new meaning to the definition of time management. “It’s just what I do,” Kenny says with a smile.
Working on the lilac neighborhood, Kenny has witnessed St. John’s Home transition from an institutional nursing home model to a collection of small homes over the past two years. “We wear regular clothes and build relationships with residents and converse as if we are family. As a shahbaz, your job is to be that replacement family member.” According to Kenny, although the small homes model does include more work, such as planning activities, meal preparation, and laundry, the connective relationships between shahbazim and elders are truly remarkable. “This job can be taxing on the mind and body, but once you get into a routine, it really is simple,” states Kenny.
“Being a shahbaz at St. John’s Home is like being the nice family member who takes care of you,” Kenny continues, “it’s like being the cool aunt or uncle who you love spending time with.” It is this time spent with family members and loved ones that help a shahbaz like Kenny to gain insight and better understand the interests and needs of elders. “You can’t just put everyone in front of a T.V. and say watch the show,” Kenny explains. “I cater to the elders because that is my job.” In all aspects of his life, Kenny focuses on how he can keep people happy.
Helping elders live a meaningful life is an important task Kenny incorporates into his daily work routine. Kenny says that it is the little things, such as perfecting an elder’s breakfast, that make all the difference. “I take care of one elder who has the same thing for breakfast every day -- cream of wheat, two pats of butter, and about seven brown sugars. I mix it all together for her so when she is ready I’m not doing anything super special, I’m just taking ten extra seconds and that makes her whole day.”
Kenny continues to describe how the elders are his “biggest motivators” and that he believes a person’s time on this earth is precious. “Forty years from now, all of us that work here could be on this floor. No one thinks ahead that far. I try and do my job as best I can and treat the elders as I would want to be treated because there is going to come a point in time when I will no longer be able to live on my own,” Kenny states.
She spent most of her professional life in the publishing business, but it wasn’t until years after retirement before she decided to tell her own story.
Helping People, Changing Lives
Giving Back to Elders