A team of therapeutic recreation students are working together to check in on senior citizens living in long-term care facilities in the New York metro area.
Veronica Kaninska, a therapeutic recreation instructor, guided her students to connect with seniors by phone to help those in need while observing the state’s social distancing mandates. The elderly who are developing friendly relationships over the phone with SJC Brooklyn students are not in contact with any relatives, she noted.
“I am very proud of SJC Brooklyn’s therapeutic recreation students,” said Kaninska, who also advises the campus’ Recreation Club. “They stepped up and met the challenges that have been presented by the current health crisis. The students stepped in to help others, not even knowing in the beginning how to proceed and where to start.
“Isolation, for many people living in long-term care facilities can lead to feelings of sadness and depression,” she continued. “I was amazed that some students called residents regularly, some even on a daily basis because residents asked them to call.”
Shaban speaks with a resident who loves to talk and tell stories about her family and her faith. The student lets the woman dominate the conversation and lends a listening ear.
“It’s like I’m calling an old friend,” Shaban noted.
The conversation topics and the frequencies of the calls depend on what the resident likes and is comfortable with, they explained.
Lavelle’s resident is blind, so Lavelle often reads stories over the phone — especially love stories or Bible verses.
Making a Difference
Shaban and Lavelle, both sophomores on the women’s soccer team, are joined in the effort by many of their classmates in the therapeutic recreation program.
Emily Rivera, a senior therapeutic recreation student, said she is happy to fit the phone calls into her busy schedule. She makes the phone calls — even while serving an internship, taking a full-time course load remotely and carrying out family commitments — because she knows it makes a difference.
“This is important because no one can visit senior centers — not even their close family members,” Rivera said.
“Our students are happy to talk to the seniors,” Kaninska said. “Sometimes the best and most powerful lessons can be learned outside the classrooms. Recreational therapists are a part of the very important and essential multidisciplinary clinical team in healthcare facilities. I hope they will carry this helping spirit with them, as they are getting ready to work in the helping professions.”
Furthering Their Reach
Students in the Recreation Club also raised money to donate two iPads to Shulman and Schachne Institute for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Brookdale Hospital and Andrus on Hudson.
The iPads will give residents the ability to video call their loved ones so they can stay connected while social distancing, explained Shaban and Lavelle. The devices also connect the residents to music, virtual traveling, games and live-streamed events.
“Social isolation can lead to many negative consequences,” Shaban and Lavelle said in an email to Shulman and Schachne Institute officials, announcing the donation. “With the device, we hope that the residents will connect to their families via Skype and FaceTime outside of the facility on a greater basis and will feel less isolated.
“We recognize how important it is for people to stay connected to their loved ones.”