Good News Sunday: Intern program a win-win for staff, residents, participants at nursing home, rehab center

  • Azalia Tellez, left, and Yendiny Flores team up to help move a resident into his room at the Sedgebrook senior living community in Lincolnshire. The two are health care support specialist interns with the Project Search program.

      Azalia Tellez, left, and Yendiny Flores team up to help move a resident into his room at the Sedgebrook senior living community in Lincolnshire. The two are health care support specialist interns with the Project Search program. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted5/8/2022 7:30 AM

This is Good News Sunday, a compilation of some of the more upbeat and inspiring stories published recently by the Daily Herald:

Young adults with special needs are making a difference through internships in nursing homes and senior living communities.

 

The Project Search intern program at Sedgebrook senior living community and Radford Green Health Care and Rehabilitation in Lincolnshire frees up nurses and staff members, teaches students with developmental and cognitive issues a meaningful career, and improves the lives of residents.

The mutually beneficial relationships built through Project Search grew out of necessity.

"It's been really challenging to get replacement nurses' assistants over the past couple of years since COVID, so we had to think outside the box," said Kim Akainyah, director of nursing at Radford Green. Nurses are overworked, and the CNAs, or certified nursing assistants, also can get bogged down attending to residents who need services.

"I help them," says intern Azalia Tellez, 21, a 2019 graduate of Grayslake Central High School who lives in Ingleside. "I fill water cups and do laundry. I moved a resident in today."

Clearbrook, the Arlington Heights nonprofit agency that serves more than 8,000 individuals with developmental and cognitive issues, teams with Sedgebrook, the Special Education District of Lake County, and the Illinois Department of Human Services' division of rehabilitation services to support Project Search.

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By performing duties that do not require medical skills or certification, Tellez and other interns free up time for staff members to spend more time on their jobs. One of the most challenging tasks is getting residents to make menu selections for their meals, and delivering the requested meals.

"It makes me feel proud," Tellez says. She speaks to residents and staff members in English and Spanish, knows her way around the three floors of the facility, and can greet about three dozen residents by name.

For the full story, click here.

Buffalo Grove adds a fuzzy pal to policing

Brittany Wilson plays with Gus, a 4-year-old Labrador retriever-standard poodle mix who recently joined the Buffalo Grove Police Department. Gus lives with Wilson, a social worker with the police department, and will be the department's therapy dog.
  Brittany Wilson plays with Gus, a 4-year-old Labrador retriever-standard poodle mix who recently joined the Buffalo Grove Police Department. Gus lives with Wilson, a social worker with the police department, and will be the department's therapy dog. - Steve Zalusky | Staff Photographer
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

When you think of police dogs, the standard image is the K-9 aggressively sniffing for drugs or chasing down a suspect.

But law enforcement departments now are relying more on a different type of dog -- a warm and fuzzy alternative that's not part of a first response, but subsequent police work that requires a more sensitive approach.

One of the latest of the so-called therapy or comfort dogs in the suburbs is Gus, a 4-year-old Labrador retriever-standard poodle mix who recently joined the Buffalo Grove Police Department. He lives and works with the police department's social worker, Brittany Wilson.

Wilson, who has worked for the police department since 2016, assists in a variety of crisis situations -- including domestic disputes, child custody disagreements and circumstances involving mental health issues.

"My primary role within the police department is to bridge the gap between the police department and the community by being the victim advocate and providing resources ... for additional support," Wilson said.

Unlike police dogs, which generally are German shepherds or similar breeds, therapy dogs can be any shape, size or breed, said Jay Reed, president of the Masonic Association of Service and Therapy Dogs. The Lake Villa organization trains therapy dogs, with the goal that they can help in a crisis, such as a case of domestic violence.

"The dog will come in and work with the victim, whoever they classify as the victim, and the dog and the handler will work with that victim, calming them down, making them feel safe," Reed said.

When the victim is more at ease, he said, witness statements are much more detailed.

For the full story, click here.

White Sox honor retired Bloomingdale nurse who traveled to Slovakia to serve Ukrainian refugees

During her time in Slovakia, Joan Morris of Bloomingdale worked alongside other volunteers, cooking and cleaning -- even helping prepare a church for Easter -- while helping families get needed resources to make it to their next destination. The Chicago White Sox honored Morris, a charter member of its Volunteer Corps, with an in-game ceremony recently.
During her time in Slovakia, Joan Morris of Bloomingdale worked alongside other volunteers, cooking and cleaning -- even helping prepare a church for Easter -- while helping families get needed resources to make it to their next destination. The Chicago White Sox honored Morris, a charter member of its Volunteer Corps, with an in-game ceremony recently. - Courtesy of Chicago White Sox

Joan Morris of Bloomingdale dates her love of the Chicago White Sox to when she was in seventh grade. A devoted fan ever since, she is a charter member of the White Sox Volunteer Corps, which started in 2009.

During a recent game against the Los Angeles Angels, the White Sox turned the table on her. They honored Morris with an in-game recognition ceremony after the first inning for her devotion to serving others, including refugees fleeing Ukraine.

"She's an inspiration," said Colin McGauley, a spokesman for the White Sox.

The organization honored Morris for her long career in nursing, including nearly 30 years at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in its emergency room and trauma care units, and the last five at Ascension Alexian Brothers Hospice as a hospice nurse.

Morris even came out of retirement last year to work vaccine clinics in DuPage County and help screen patients in the ER and ICU at Ascension Alexian Brothers.

But even more compelling was her recent volunteer trip to Slovakia, to help Ukrainian refugees crossing the border.

"That's why I retired, so that I can do things like this," Morris said of her impromptu trip. "Just seeing that so much was being done, why not do it? Going there helped me more than it helped them."

For the full story, click here.

• Good News Sunday will run each weekend. Please visit dailyherald.com/newsletters to sign up for our Good News Sunday newsletter.

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