Can you imagine what it would be like to receive a travel grant that provides full financial support to network, learn, reflect and develop programming as an activity professional? That is exactly the opportunity that Sylvie Silver, a recipient of the Winston Churchill Fellowship Award, received. Sylvie is the director of NAPA (National Activity Providers Association), a registered charity and membership organization in the United Kingdom (UK) for individuals interested in increasing activity opportunities for older people in care settings. Her goal as the fellowship recipient is to focus on the part that Arts play in meaningful engagement.
Sylvie had the unique opportunity to visit both the United States and Australia, spending three weeks in each country. She wanted to visit a large metropolis area, a suburban area and rural areas. On her journey she met many kind and supportive people. The assistant manager of her hotel overheard Sylvie asking for the address of a facility she wanted to visit. The assistant manager told her that she knew the place well because her mother, who had dementia, had lived there. After Sylvie told about her reasons for traveling, the hotel provided a car and driver. The driver, George, had actually worked at that particular nursing home and shared his insights. These are the times when of word-of-mouth advertising travels miles.
While in Rochester, N.Y., Sylvie stopped by to see me. I had assisted Sylvie in organizing her visit to the States. We had conversations about comparisons and contrasts. Sylvie said that the most common and everyday language use is “elder,” which is a Native American tribal term of reverence and respect. In comparison, high-end provider literature refers to senior citizens.
Similarities include reaching out to the care aides and encouraging them to become less task oriented and more engaged with the whole person that they serve. Another similarity is how activity professionals develop unique programming ideas to maximize engagement and assist individuals to succeed by focusing on their strengths.
Sylvie ended her trip with a visit to the DeMay Living Center in Newark, N.Y. As the manager of Long Term Care Therapies, I organized a meeting of recreation and activity personnel across Rochester Regional Health. A day of learning was planned, which included a seminar on Palliative Care and a moving, amusing and very personal account of living with dementia from a local man named Neil, who couldn’t emphasize enough how support from his family, friends, church colleagues and health professionals have allowed him to have a fulfilling and active life since his diagnosis eight years ago.
At Sylvie's presentation, she talked about the goals of activity professionals in the UK. During a question-and-answer session, Sylvie commented that it was heartening to hear the same questions that come up time and again in the UK. We are all much more alike than we might realize. Activity people everywhere are warmhearted, energetic, compassionate, overstretched, talented and full of fun
Shelley Evans, MT-BC, AC-BC, CDP, CADDCT, is the Director of Communications and Marketing at the National Association of Activity Professionals Credentialing Center (NAAPCC). She can be reached at (913) 748-7288.