Unsung Heroes

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 30, 2006

Look out, &#8220Baby Boomers!” Nursing home life may be closer than you think. And, aren't you that generation that swore you'd never give up your independence?

Well, if and when that day comes—-&#8220who you gonna call?” It's no longer &#8220Ghost Busters,” but your friendly, caring activities professional.

In recent years, research has shown that increased physical activity and staying mentally challenged and active as you age can delay or even prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

Activities over the years have become more and more a specialized profession in the healthcare field, helping people stay emotionally healthy and functioning well in their environment. Luverne Health and Rehab is one of the few nursing homes in Alabama that can boast of having two nationally certified activity directors.

Lawanda Harrell, activity director, says, &#8220When you've got an 80-year-old man walking to Bingo twice a week, who can tell you the price of corn in 1936, you know you've accomplished something!” Harrell, who started working at Luverne Health and Rehab 18 years ago when she was just out of high school, says that she worked several years as a Certified Nursing Assistant while attending nursing school. She was drafted into the Activities Department because of her artistic ability. She said that she loves doing the seasonal art on the four giant activity calendars throughout the facility each month. Harrell also enjoys doing personal shopping for the residents, and she enjoys doing their hair, whenever she can fit it into her busy schedule.

Ann Grier, activity director, who joined Harrell nine years ago, said, &#8220We have an activity for every occasion. We provide movies, gospel music videos, reading and poetry, crafts, exercise, Bingo, Dominoes, church services and parties for all seasons and occasions. One of our biggest undertakings every year is our annual beauty pageant for our residents, and our annual Christmas Store and the residents' Christmas party. We involve the community in our events as much as possible.”

In May of 2005, Kia Holladay joined the team as an activities assistant. &#8220We have fun helping our residents stay active and healthy,” Holladay said. &#8220There's never a dull moment. WE allow them to make choices about their daily routine and activities, but we encourage them to do things and stay active. They love telling us about how life was back in the Good Old Days.”

&#8220Most of them experienced World War I and World War II,” Grier said. &#8220And, many went through the Great Depression. They know so much about the history of our country. Hard times didn't get them down, even though they sometimes wish things were still just a nickel and that life was simple again. We owe them a lot, and it's a thrill to see them stay active as long as possible.”

Harrell and Grier said that paperwork has overtaken them in recent years, but they love every opportunity to help their residents learn something new to keep their memories sharp.

&#8220We don't mind if no one sings our praises,” Harrell said. &#8220Our real joy is in a job well done and in seeing our residents healthy and happy at the end of a long day.”