Every Friday, certain residents at the Gardens in Tunkhannock are treated to a visit from students from Misericordia University.
The students will perform certain occupational therapy tasks for the residents. These tasks can range from simple things like reading and talking, to performing exercises, playing games and making crafts.
Both the students and the residents benefit from the visits. The residents enjoy meeting and socializing with the students, while the students obtain valuable field experience in providing occupational therapy to elderly patients.
“All the students are majoring in occupational therapy and will earn their master’s degree next year,” explained Grace Fisher, professor of occupational therapy at Misericordia. “They do different level of field work. This is Level One - geriatric field work.”
Fisher explained that this is where the students apply what they have learned in gerontology.
“They have a different assessment each week,” she said. “Today they are performing visual/assessments to see how individuals see and take information from the environment.”
Some of the day’s activities include a dance exercise, in which the residents perform some of the movements while seated. The students hold a ring toss game, in which winners are asked a trivia question. “This helps to determine gross motor skills,” Fisher explained. “As well as how well people balance in their chairs.”
Other activities include paper and pencil tests.
“Some of the students made vision test kits in class,” she said. “The kits include buttons, pins and colored objects. To see if they can discriminate between different size objects.”
The students provide occupational therapy to residents every Friday over a 12-week period. The services provided by the students allow them to obtain hands-on field experience, which they will be able to use once they start their careers in the occupational therapy field.
One student is Mariah Bostwick of Stroudsburg.
“I think it’s great that we can work with the residents here. They really look forward to our weekly visits a lot,” she said.
Bostwick said she likes working with the residents, planning their various activities as an occupational therapist.
Kaitlin Wilson, of Dorothy, N.J., also enjoys working with the residents.
“I like the individual activities,” she explained. “I’ve been with one person - Rita - the whole time. It’s fun to talk her and hear her stories. I try to make it a positive experience for her, and she’s really sweet.”
“I really like the opportunity to come out an practice our skills,” said Natasha Chandra of Hillsborough, N.J. “I also like the real-life experiences that the program has to offer.”
Being a volunteer is allowing her to spot or solve problems in the field that she will eventually have to deal with when she graduates, Chandra explained.
“When I get a job, it will help me be a better occupational therapist,” she said.
“I love it. I think it’s to be able to provide solutions - where everything comes together,” explained Ashley Coleman of Broadheadsville in the Poconos. “I’ve learned that you have to make stuff up as you go along. You also get a lot of good life advice from the clients. I find that very valuable.”
“It’s really neat,” said Hannah Corbacio of Pottsville. “I get to work with Thelma (a resident). I’ve gotten really close with her. We’ve become good friends and it’s a lot of fun to come by each week.”
“It’s a really good experience to work in this type of setting” said Jessica Pluta of Dauphin. “It’s really a lot of fun to try to work with each person. It’s a good experience for everyone.”
“Working with geriatrics is different compared with pediatrics or adults,” said Emily Mesaris of Lansdale. “You have to give a lot more thought to what you are doing. Sometimes you have to change your activities at the last moment, because a resident is tired or not feeling well. You do something different to make it work.”
One resident who enjoys the company of the Misericordia students is Peggy Tuttle.
“It’s great,” she said. “We did tie dying last week. I really like socializing with them.”
“It’s nice. It’s very nice,” said resident Clara Bondurich. “When I worked with Dr. Arthur Davenport in Tunkhannock, I worked with different people. Now people are working with me. I’m a young 100 years.”
“I think it’s wonderful,” said resident Thelma Taluba. I love to be with Hannah. She’s nice.”
Erin Ferguson, Director of Activities at The Gardens, said that the student volunteers have been a tremendous help to the residents.
“It’s a nice group of kids,” she explained.
The Gardens has many people who volunteer their time to help the residents - including reading to them, playing bingo, and organizing crafts, she said. The occupational therapy provided by the students helps the residents in areas such as motor control, decision making and other cognitive abilities.
Another advantage provided by the students is they work with the residents in smaller groups. This allows more attention to be paid to the residents in fulfilling their individual needs.