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A bright spot, warm place for people with hard lives

Carol Maskiell was torn at first when she was offered the position of director of the adult day health care program at the Jewish Home of Rochester. She was comfortable where she was — director of social work and recreation therapy at the Jewish Home — and was reluctant to make a change.

Now, 12 years later, she’s glad she did.

“That decision turned into one of the most rewarding of my career,” said Maskiell, who has more than 40 years of social work experience, including 30 at the Jewish Home. “You can really make a difference. We have people in our program who would be in a nursing home if we were not here to provide the care during the day.”

The adult day health care program at the Jewish Home, the high-rise centerpiece on the Jewish Senior Life campus in Brighton, serves 114 people from the ages of 30 to 90 with special physical and psychosocial needs. Day care participants include people with traumatic brain injuries, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, dementia, strokes and varying mental health diagnoses.

Participants live in group homes, family care homes, supervised housing, with family or independently. The Jewish Home adult day care program, which has been in existence since the 1980s, has grown almost 30 percent the past several years to become the largest program of its kind in the Rochester area, according to Jewish Senior Life President and CEO Mike King.

“People actually come to the program because they want to be here. They’re very upset if we have to close because of weather,” Maskiell said. “We have a couple of people who cry when they have to go home in the afternoon. We have a very full recreation program. We go on outings, we have a prom once a year, we have picnics at Black Creek Park. For some of these people, that’s the first time they’ve ever done those things.”

Michele Schirano, Jewish Senior Life senior vice president/administrator, said participants in Maskiell’s program find acceptance, personal attention and social interaction. “It really is a family atmosphere,” Schirano said. “No one is more proud of that than Carol.”

Pets are part of the family as well. Maskiell sometimes brings her shih tzu, Emma, to work, and a recreation therapist often brings her dog. Once a week, a local greyhound rescue group brings retired racing dogs to the Jewish Home.

Schirano has high praise for Maskiell.

“The program participants have very hard lives,” Schirano said. “For many, adult day (care) could be the only time they get a hot meal that day. Carol is known for giving participants her own money so they can enjoy a group outing or even get a haircut. She has always been a very strong advocate for those in need and wants to do the right thing by them. She will do anything for anybody.”

Maskiell, who runs the adult day health care program with a staff of 17, is not afraid to help out and get her hands dirty, social worker Yvonne Butman said.

“She is as involved as we are, working with the members and actively participating just as much as the nurses and other staff,” Butman said. “It makes life easier for the staff — and makes Carol a great role model.”

Maskiell, who grew up in west Irondequoit and studied social work at Michigan State University, began her career at Rochester General Hospital in the 1970s. She also worked at Highland Hospital before joining the Jewish Home in 1986 as a unit social worker.

Away from work, Maskiell enjoys reading, socializing with her many friends in the Rochester area and traveling, particularly to Colorado, where her two children and four grandchildren live.

“My grandchildren are the light of my life,” Maskiell said.

Richard Zitrin is a Rochester-area freelance writer.

3/18/2016 (c) 2016 Health Care Achievement Awards Special Section. Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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