WILKES-BARRE TWP. — At Highland Park Senior Living, it’s important that the guests feel less like patients and more like family.
That’s according to Brianna Spak-Heichel, one of the nurses at the center.
“These people are not just patients; we are working in their home,” Spak-Heichel said as she talked over the phone with a Times Leader reporter last week.
Spak-Heichel, 29, says she’s keenly aware of the importance of her role in her patients’ lives.
“Not only do you do nursing, you’re experiencing life with these people: their happy moments, their sad moments,” she said.
The nurse, who has been with the senior center for a year and a few months, is a certified dementia practitioner. She said that, while it’s a “tough position,” it’s something she always wanted to do.
“I started off as a dementia nurse when I first graduated,” she said. “It’s just sort of where my heart was.”
Spak-Heichel works in the dementia unit at Highland Park. For her, the most important goal is to bring her patients even a little bit of happiness.
“They might not remember breakfast or yesterday, but as long as you can make them happy for a few moments, that’s what matters,” she said. “At least for that moment, they’re happy.”
For Spak-Heichel, that moment is supremely important, and she structures much of her day around how to make that moment happen.
She said her biggest hobby is crafting, saying that she loves doing crafting activities with the residents. She’s also recently organized a craft fair at Highland Park which directly benefited the Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
She also said it’s not unusual for her to take some of her residents’ clothing home if it’s ever in need of a hemming.
“I try to go above and beyond,” she said. “Families trust us with their family members. A resident is not a task; they’re human beings, and we want them to know that they can leave them with us and we will make it like home.”
Spak-Heichel described her work as one with a great deal of moral weight: she thinks that providing good care to her patients is exactly what society owes them.
“The geriatric population is a pillar of our society,” she said. “They paved the way for us; the least we can do is make them comfortable and give them a little easier of a time for the rest of their life.”
But in addition to that, she also said working with that population is just really fun.
“They’re so much fun,” she said with a laugh. “I have residents who are in their 90s who you would never expect to be in their 90s. You can learn so much from them; sitting and talking with them is fascinating.”
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan