||Resident Jerome Dilberto, right, discusses a work he painted in Ronald Becker's art class.
||Ronald Becker, Director of the Therapeutic Recreation program at Coler-Goldwater.
Lisa Enem was a resident at Coler-Goldwater recuperating from an operation to restore her vision when she joined drawing and painting classes offered in the facility's therapeutic recreation program and discovered her artistic vision.
“I write and perform my own poetry,” Enem said. “But before I never would have dared to pick up a pen or brush and paint or draw.”
But when she learned that Ronald Becker, Director of Therapeutic Recreation, was teaching the drawing class, she decided to try it, and a painting class soon followed. Her acrylic-on-canvass paintings reflect her newly-found talent and were recently featured in an exhibit of patients' and residents' work.
“I felt so proud,” said Enem, who has other medical issues and has been a resident for several years. She said painting not only provides an outlet when she is moody or blue, it helps with hand-to-eye coordination and has helped build her confidence.
“This has been rewarding, to rediscover yourself and challenge your talent. For me it's a moral victory,” she said.
The therapeutic recreation program at Coler-Goldwater helps nursing home residents and patients in the longterm care hospital and AIDS units to rebuild their lives after suffering injuries due to accidents or violence, or after a diagnosis of a debilitating chronic illness. The program provides more than 50 different kinds of classes and activities that run the gamut, including art in English and Spanish, cooking, gardening, French classes, choral group, drama and photography. Recreational activities include bingo, dominoes, casino night, movies and karaoke, and physical activities include dance, horseshoes and, when there are enough players, wheelchair basketball.
“Therapeutic recreation provides purposeful activities that help to rehabilitate or maintain the functioning level of the residents and patients,” Becker said. “"It helps them adapt to their present medical condition and develop skills to maximize their participation in leisure activities that they enjoy."
“It goes beyond just giving the individual something to do during the day while they're here,” said Robert Hughes, Executive Director of Coler-Goldwater. “There's a treatment plan that's developed by the therapists and that treatment plan is built around the needs of the patient or resident and how therapeutic recreation can meet those needs and those goals.”
For example, Becker said, a recent stroke victim who used to work as an interior designer takes a painting class because it is in her field of interest but also because it helps to develop her motor skills, strength, coordination and confidence.
About 1,200 of Coler-Goldwater's 2,000 residents and patients participate in one form or another of therapeutic recreation, Becker said.
Becker has worked at four other nursing homes and he says that at Coler-Goldwater, patients are more racially and culturally diverse and there's a broader age range, and the programs are designed to reflect that.
The 45-member staff is also diverse and includes a horticulture therapist who is Chinese and other therapists who speak Creole and Spanish. Enem said Becker treats patients with respect, and his staff does the same.
“His staff are just like him because he sets high standards.”
Enem and the staff have started working on a plan for her to transition back into the community. “They helped me rediscover my moral, creative and spiritual life. This is definitely a gift I'm taking with me wherever I go,” Enem said.