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University of Iowa News Release

March 8, 2005

Gass Reads From New Book On Nursing Homes March 21 On WSUI

Tom Gass will read from his new book, "Nobody's Home: Candid Reflections of a Nursing Home Aide," at 8 p.m. Monday, March 21, on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series on University of Iowa radio station WSUI, AM 910.

The reading, hosted by Julie Englander, will be a free event at the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen on the Internet at

A preview in Publishers Weekly summarized, "This honest and heartfelt book is a firsthand account of the reality of life in a nursing home. Gass, who spent five years in a Catholic seminary, ran a halfway house and was a teacher, returned to the U.S. after many years in Asia to care for his dying mother. That experience led him to work as a poorly paid aide in a long-term care facility in the Midwest. In a calm, intelligent and matter-of-fact style, Gass describes his often-unpleasant daily routines. He cleans, feeds and dresses the patients; tries to converse with them, although they are often senile; and mostly, attempts to preserve their dignity.

"Perhaps Gass's most important observation is how uncomfortable everyone is around the home's residents -- the staff, the relatives and the visitors. To combat that, he tries to do something to engage them: 'Face to face, up close and personal, I learn to focus my full attention in flashes. One moment at a time, out comes my inner child. When I happen to touch residents softly or treat them affectionately, something may melt within and they become temporarily free of these depressing walls.'

"In the epilogue, Gass offers specific suggestions to reform nursing homes. He proposes having pets for the patients and letting children interact with older people more regularly . . . the book should be required reading for health care professionals and others in the medical field."

Gass has divided his life between working in the trades and using his psychology degree in a variety of social work settings. At the age of 13 he entered a Catholic seminary, which included a year of silence. In 1970 he learned meditation, which he still practices daily.

He has lived and traveled through most of Asia enhancing his interest in eastern thought. He worked in a nursing home in the Midwest for three and a half years, first as a nursing aide and then as a director of social services.

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