Compassion motivates Colchester woman

COLCHESTER Every Saturday morning, 27-year-old Danielle DeGrechie heats up a curling iron, arranges a makeup kit, and sorts through a box of jewelry. Then, she uses those tools along with her talents and compassion to make a group of women with advanced Alzheimers disease feel beautiful. The women, most of them in their 80s and all of them very frail, neither speak often nor can they eat, get out of their beds, or do much else without help. But, they can still feel pretty, DeGrechie said, and thats why she began performing the makeovers, which have quickly become a weekly ritual at the Arbors at Shelburne. The Arbors Harbor Program cares for people in the middle and advanced stages of Alzheimers and other memory-impairing diseases. DeGrechie is the Harbor Program coordinator. Even if they cant tell me this, you can see a glow about them that they know they look good. Its the most wonderful feeling to see how positive this is for them, says DeGrechie. DeGrechies launch of the resident makeovers is just one example of why she has earned the annual Beacon Award from Benchmark Assisted Living, which operates The Arbors. In honoring DeGrechie, Benchmark singled her out for providing the most outstanding leadership and service of all supervisors throughout the company, which has 43 senior living communities in six states. Kelly Mazza, executive director of the Arbors, nominated DeGrechie for the Beacon Award. Danielle embodies our philosophy of care, which is about keeping it personal, Mazza said. Its so easy for the world to forget about people with Alzheimers, especially those in the advanced stage, because they dont communicate in ways the world views as normal. Danielle exemplifies how important it is to treat each person as an individual. DeGrechie joined the Arbors as a licensed nursing assistant seven years ago, shortly after graduating from South Burlington High School. I really wanted to pursue nursing school and I thought it would be good to get some related experience first, DeGrechie said. She chose The Arbors because I felt like it would be rewarding to help older people and I really wanted to help. The prospect of working with seniors with memory impairments didnt scare me at all. But I learned a lot quickly, because I hadnt realized how much Alzheimers affects people physically, mentally, and emotionally, she said. DeGrechie was quickly promoted, first to medical technician, then to lead licensed nursing technician, and then to her current position. As Harbor Program coordinator, she helps supervise staff, handles scheduling, and has a daily hands-on role with activities and care. Obtaining a nursing degree remains her long-term goal, but she says her main interest right now is the impact she can have on the lives of those at the Arbors. What makes me come to work each day is that I know I can create a positive difference for people, she says. When I can get someone to laugh, when I can draw a resident into a conversation who normally doesnt speak, when I know something Ive done has made a resident feel good, its the greatest feeling in the world. As part of winning this years Beacon Award, DeGrechie receives a cruise for two to Bermuda. DeGrechie resides in Colchester. The Arbors is located at 687 Shelburne Rd. in Shelburne.

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