Patient and Family Centered Care is everyone’s responsibility. It’s not just the responsibility of the traditional doctors and nurses who take care of people’s physical bodies. Patient and Family Centered Care reaches beyond physical care. It’s about emotional and spiritual health as well. When people feel safe, protected and confident, their bodies are calm and the conditions are good for healing.

As a member of the Botsford family since February 27, 1979, Russ Yerge is a familiar face. The first part of his 38 years employment was at Botsford Hospital as a security guard, now Beaumont – Farmington Hills. For the nearly past two decades, he has protected the residents of Botsford Commons Senior Community.

A Farmington native, Russ grew up with parents who lived through the depression, a time when resources were scarce and wasting was not an option. Russ worked in the family garden during his adolescence, perfecting what we now call, organic gardening. The trick he says is, “Everything goes back into the soil. Egg shells, coffee grounds, banana peels, you name it, throw it in.”

Russ prides himself on his years of gardening, “I’ve always had a garden and it’s always been organic. It’s a healthier way to garden (without chemicals) and cooking from scratch is always best. It’s also very economical!” His parents taught him well, offering the advice of “eat what you grow and you will have a good mind and body.”

With decades of gardening experience, Russ’ garden is always successful. So successful in fact, his yield of zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and beans are more than he can consume on his own. Fortunately for Russ, he’s made many friends throughout the years and he is more than happy to share. “It’s fun to see people light up when I give them veggies from my garden, they always look so happy.”

Russ shares his crops with everyone on campus including staff, residents and their family members. He enjoys when people share their recipes with him and he appreciates when they make him fresh salsa or homemade zucchini bread to show their gratitude.

Russ’ compassion and care for the patients and residents at Botsford Commons is obvious. He spends a lot of time sharing stories, telling jokes and always leaving people with a smile. Not too long ago, Russ offered an invitation to residents from the independent community to visit his garden at his home just a few miles away. He recalls, “I wanted to show them where the veggies came from.”

The visit was special for everyone and, of course, no one left with empty bags. He said, “Seniors understand the importance of eating what you grow and being healthy. I’ve talked to a lot of seniors over my years and the ones who live the longest are always the ones who ate the most veggies.”

As a security guard, Russ keeps the campus safe and he advocates for the residents who live there, but he does more than that. Russ is a caregiver who feeds people with heart healthy nourishment through their stomachs as well as emotional and spiritual health through their hearts. He reminds us that patients and residents at Botsford Commons have traditions, stories and memories from years ago that should be valued and not forgotten. Patient and Family Centered Care is about more than physical health – is about being heard, understood and protected. Thank you, Russ for reminding us.