Can you briefly describe your background prior to becoming Program Director?
I was born in Denver and raised here until I was about 13 years old. In 2012, I moved back to Colorado to be closer to my aging grandparents. I desired a more meaningful career and decided to go back to school. In 2016, I received an Associates of Occupational Studies from Pima Medical Institute and in September of that same year, I started my career as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) at Easterseals Colorado’s Neurological Rehabilitation Adult Day Program (NRADP). I pursued this path because I knew it would be a meaningful way to help people in need. As COTA, I assisted program participants to obtain and maintain their abilities to live as independently as possible in their home and community. In 2019, I started my new role as Program Director for NRADP and love the community that we serve. As Program Director, I oversee our team of 6 staff, including 2 full-time staff (a Physical Therapy Assistant and a Certified Nursing Assistant) and 4 part-time staff (a Speech Language Pathologist, an Occupational Therapist, a Physical Therapist, and a Therapy Aide). I’m responsible for planning our curriculum, recruiting new participants, and overseeing therapies in order to make sure that we are all meeting the needs of the population we serve.
What neurological disorders does this program provide services for and how long are services offered? Are there any disorders that are more common at this program?
Stroke is the most prevalent neurological disorder we see at our program. However, our program is open to people living with other neurological disorders, including but not limited to, Parkinson’s disease, MS, TBI, Stroke, etc. Our services do not have an ‘expiration date’ and participants can attend for as long or as little as they want.
What does a typical day look like for participants attending this program? How do you apply variation or creativity to your day-to-day programming?
Our program runs from 9am to 3pm from Monday to Friday. Physical, occupational, and speech therapies are available through an adult day program environment, assisting participants in their pursuit of independence. Caregivers resources, employment resources, social security application assistance, and benefits counseling are also offered. We apply variation and creativity during individual therapy sessions and thoughtful group activities so all can participate. The therapy and group sessions vary widely from day to day and from participant to participant, but a typical day looks something like this:
- 9am – Participants begin to arrive
- 9am-10am – Coffee and a snack
- 10am-11am – Therapy/exercise
- 11am-12pm – Lunch
- 1pm-3pm – Cognitive activity
- 3pm – Participants pack up to go home
How does your team handle some of the most common physical and mental challenges participants face and make sure their needs are being met?
We approach all situations with our participants on a individualized basis and as needed. Everyone is unique and we try to tend to the needs individually. As a team, we need to be flexible and be able to adapt to an ever-changing environment.
How is ESC’s program unique or different from other rehab programs?
Our program is one of the only skilled adult day programs in the Denver Metro area. We offer skilled services (physical, occupational, and speech therapy) with no time limit, while other adult day programs do not offer these services. Participants that experience a neurological event may come to our program for as long as they want or need. We have participants that have been here for 9+ years! These participants see improvement and maintain their current level of function year-to-year through continuing therapy and our program is a place to find community, support, and friendship.
What is most rewarding about your job? What is most stressful about your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is that I get to be with the most motivational, positive and inspirational people every day! I leave work with a full heart every day.
The most stressful part of my job is making sure that everyone’s needs are being met, from participants to the staff.
What other experiences (outside of therapy) do you think would benefit the participants in your program?
I am looking forward to our partnership with Spark the Change Colorado. They offer pro-bono individual mental health services and group lessons. I’m excited to offer this element of therapy to program participants because it is often a topic not widely discussed among stroke survivors. Mental health is as important to recovery as physical health. With the impact stroke has on the brain, stroke survivors often experience emotional and behavioral changes including depression, anger and anxiety.
Do you have any advice for student therapists working towards receiving their degrees?
Occupation Therapy is the most amazing field to work in. I love working in a non-traditional COTA role especially with people who have a neurological disorder. It is so rewarding! None are alike, all need to be treated in their own unique way, and it keeps you on your toes. Lastly, don’t give up! You are never too old to change careers.