May 7, 2007

From generation to generation

Times have changed for past and present Cokato Manor activity directors

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Generations of activity directors still reside at Cokato Manor, but times have changed including medical condition of residents and responsibilities.

Cokato Manor resident Addie Wright, 98, remembers making stuffed teddy bears and pillows with her residents when she was an activity director for Cokato Manor from it’s beginning in 1964 until she retired in 1972.

Even with a smaller resident population, Wright kept busy.

Brookridge resident Harriet Berg, 88, was also an activities director for a short period in the ‘70s. She remembers driving to Winsted to get fabric and stuffing. Berg drew animals on the fabrics and the residents would cut the pieces out and stuff them.

Things have changed for the better, as well, such as additional funding. In the past, the residents would make these crafts and sell them. They even sold popcorn in the community.

“This was our income,” Berg said.

Activities like this were not funded during that time. Now, nursing homes are much more recognized, Marschel said.

Carol Semke began at Cokato Manor in 1974. She even worked with Addie for a short time. Semke remembers things being much easier back then. She is no longer the activities director, but remains employed in the activities department.

Joy Marschel is the current activities director and she remembers when she started in 1998, taking a group of residents on a trip to a Twins game.

“Residents were better able to do more things,” she said.

The abilities of the residents in nursing homes have changed drastically, Marschel said.

Nursing homes have grown to emphasize home health care, keeping elderly in their own homes as long as possible. So, when they enter the nursing home, they are less able to do certain activities that might have been done years ago.

People who are residents now, would’ve most likely been in hospitals because of the care they needed, Marschel said.

Now, this care can be obtained in a nursing home, and oftentimes in their own homes.

Nursing homes, in the past, didn’t have therapy and rehabilitative services, and older people would have to get that service from hospitals.

Wright helped create the Manor’s volunteer program. Volunteers are recognized annually and a “volunteer of the year” award is given out.

Staffing for activities has seen a drastic increase with the onset of state guidelines and required paperwork done by directors.

When Wright was a director, she worked alone. Now, Marschel has nine other staff member, either full or part time, in activities and therapy.

With Cokato Charitable Trust offering more services, the number of staff needed is greater as well. It no longer is just a nursing home, Cokato Charitable Trust offers a secure Alzheimer’s unit, adult and child daycare, and Meals on Wheels.

“It’s a continuum of care,” Marschel said.

In meals alone, there are 120 meals prepared for lunch including those for the residents and meals on wheels recipients according to Marschel.

Semke expressed the idea that if a person grows up knowing about nursing homes and becoming familiar with this type of profession, children are more likely to enter into it as a career. She was one of those children whose mother had worked at Cokato Manor as a director of nurses.

“I have been at the Manor basically since it opened in 1964,” Semke said.

“There’s something about working in geriatrics,” Marschel said.

Both Semke and Marschel enjoy their jobs because no two days are alike.

“I always end the day by asking myself ‘Did I make a difference in someone’s life today?’” Semke said.

Whether it be telling a joke and making a resident laugh or by doing a new activity, “That’s what it’s about, constantly looking for new ideas and activities and catering to what they want,” Marschel said.

“We want to make sure quality of life is as high as it can be,” she said.

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