There is so much that goes into planning daily activities at Hopkins ElderPlus (HEP), and each member of the recreation team possesses special gifts and talents that contribute to making the programming successful.
“The recreation team at HEP is an amazing collaboration of three very hardworking and uniquely different individuals who, together, have such harmony,” says social work supervisor Avis Crayton. “This harmony is so evident in the daily execution of the therapeutic activities in our Day Health Center. The activities do more than entertain our participants, they heal them just as much as any other clinical services provided here. In any given moment, you can walk into our Day Health Center and find it filled with laughter, dancing, singing — all medicine for the soul!”
Hopkins ElderPlus is a health program designed to provide and coordinate preventive, primary, acute and long-term care services so that seniors can continue living healthier in the community. The program, housed at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, brightens the days of more than 155 elderly participants. According to Crayton, the Hopkins ElderPlus recreation department is the heart of the program.
Crayton says recreational therapy aide Carlita Pindell is the taskmaster of the trio. She is diligent about making sure the recreation area is organized and ready for the day’s activities.
“Our primary purpose is to help the participants be independent and stay in their community,” Pindell says. “It’s very rewarding. I get a lot out of it spiritually and emotionally.”
Pindell says creativity is key when organizing activities for participants.
“It’s a challenge to do something every day, but reimagine how you do it each time. You get to dig deep inside yourself to find out what your creative talents are,” Pindell says.
Versatility is imperative, Pindell says.
“You have to know a little bit about everything — singing, computers, how to draw. You have to know CPR and first aid, and you have to be strong — you’re lifting at least 30 pounds. You also have to know how to be patient.”
Crayton describes recreational therapy supervisor Paul Kowzan as meticulous and reliable.
“He is serious about maintaining the clinical and administrative responsibilities of the department, yet you can still find him dancing and singing alongside the participants on any given day. He works hard to create and maintain the harmony that’s found in the department,” Crayton says.
Kowzan says he loves “getting to see people change for the better.”
“Some people come in and they’re a little depressed when they first join, but over time they become much more outgoing, or they’ll remember a passion they used to have. They’re happier.”
Crayton describes the third member of the team, recreational therapy aide Janet Haskins, as enthusiastic and positive.
“I just love the people I work with, and I love the participants,” Haskins says. “I love when they smile and when they’re happy to be here. They really appreciate the little things we do for them.”
Haskins says not everyone is suited for this type of work.
“You have to be very compassionate, flexible and caring,” Haskins says. “You have to build relationships of trust and treat everyone with dignity and respect. You’ve got to keep an open mind and have an open heart.”
On some days, 68-year-old Vernell Murray says she just doesn’t feel like doing anything. Murray says that feeling changes when she arrives at Hopkins ElderPlus.
“They encourage me,” says Murray, of Baltimore. “They motivate me to keep on doing and keep on moving. They rally around you and they’re really engaging!”
Considering elder care?
Kowzan says just because you are looking for help does not mean you are giving up.
“It may seem overwhelming right now, but over time you’ll see how much the program does care about, and for, your loved one,” Kowzan says.
“They’re going to be taken good care of here,” adds Haskins. “We have a well-disciplined team, and we all work together. You’ll see we have a lot to offer.”