Diana Johnson, Activities Director at Riverwood Healthcare and Rehabilitation, is officially calling it a career after 47 dedicated years of serving residents in nursing homes.
Johnson began her career in 1972. Before spending 18 years working for Riverwood, she was a staff member at the Madisonville Care Center. She moved to Madisonville from Texas City soon after marriage and simply needed a job. The rest was history.
Johnson began as a Certified Nursing Assistant and worked in a number of different department fields in the nursing home before she found her calling.
“I started working in activities for the Care Center in 1987 after going to school for that,” said Johnson from her office at Riverwood. “It is just like home life. You have to think on the residents’ level and ask yourself what they can do today that will be fun.”
“Ms. Diana” was tasked with the difficult assignment of coming up with new activities to keep the residents busy throughout her time. These activities included but were in not way limited to Bingo, gardening, cooking and the occasional shopping trip.
“When you get to know your residents, you learn what they like to do,” said Johnson. “It is difficult because you have to meet their needs. Not everybody likes to play bingo or to go shopping. You need to meet every individual need, so it is a full time job.”
While she became an expert at figuring out new and inclusive activities, nothing could ever prepare her for the pain of losing residents that she became so fond of through her work.
“You never adjust to that,” said Johnson. “I spend most of my time here with them and they become family. When you come in and find out you lost one of them, it is like losing a family member. There have even been instances where someone passed away in my arms, and you just do not get over that.”
Johnson has been presented with a number of different job offers in different fields over the years, but she stayed with it for so long as a result of the love she felt for those she worked with.
Despite her dedication to the work she loved so much, Johnson is at peace with her decision to retire and excited for what the future has in store.
“There comes a point in everybody’s life when it is time to get out of the way so the future can step in,” said Johnson. “I want to leave this business with my pride and dignity. I can still do this job, but my time is up.”
Johnson is currently helping her replacement, Raven Middlebrook, get adjusted to the position. Middlebrook is fresh out of school and Johnson is excited for what she has to offer Riverwood and the residents.
“I have already learned a whole lot,” said Middlebrook. “(Johnson) has one of the best personalities I have ever seen. This is a stressful job, but she is so happy all of the time. I hope I can be like that.”
Johnson was able to select her replacement and did not hesitate when she had an opportunity to hire Middlebrook.
“One thing I can say after all these years is that I have been real with my residents,” said Johnson. “I am not saying I have been perfect, but if I say I will do something, I will try and do it for them.”
Johnson will still visit Riverwood in retirement and is excited to spend time with her children Pamela, Leon and Quincy.