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Caring for Participants Like Family

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This blog post is guest written by Lillian Andino-Vargas, Day Health Center Coordinator at our 99th Street Teamcare center.

I’ve always liked being around the elderly. Growing up, I didn’t get to see my grandparents often because they were living in Puerto Rico. I find that seniors are often wise and caring. That’s part of why I went to school to become a Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. Now, I’ve been working as a Recreation Therapist for CenterLight for more than 15 years.

Last year, my elderly uncle who lives alone wandered out of his building and no one knew where he went. He wandered on the subways for two days before someone noticed him and brought him to a psychiatric hospital. After that incident, he was diagnosed with dementia and had to be admitted into a nursing home. It became quickly apparent that he wasn’t happy there.

Lillian with her uncle

My uncle doesn’t have any children, so I knew I needed to look into other options. In the meantime, I brought him meals several times a week because he didn’t like the food at the nursing home. After working at CenterLight for so long, I knew that Teamcare was a program I could trust. He went through our enrollment process and was transferred back to his apartment. To remind him of his fresh start, I painted the living room yellow—his favorite color. When he moved back in, he was so happy to have his own home again!

Seeing my uncle thrive living at home and coming to the Teamcare center brings me joy. Helping him join Teamcare also made me understand how unique the PACE model of care is in a different way. When he was in the nursing home, I barely recognized him because he was so unhappy. He wasn’t the uncle I knew anymore. Now that he gets to age at home and in his community, it’s like night and day. At home, I know he’s in good hands with a home health aide, nurse, and team of specialists. At the center, I keep an eye on my uncle during our daily activities just like I do for all of our participants. He’s healthier and he’s happier, and I have peace of mind.

I joke with our participants that since I don’t have my parents anymore, that they have to step in. They say, “Of course! You’re our daughter.” Every time I walk in the Day Health Center, I’m reminded that I have 50 seniors who are looking after me as much as I look after them. I put my heart and soul into my work, and I truly love what I do. I know that one day when I’m in need of care, someone will give me the same level of care that I give to each of our participants.

H3329_2019_BLOGCaringLikeFamily Approved 09112019

Last updated August 28, 2019

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