Senior care grant enriches the aging mind

Grace Donaldson and Chandler Greenwell visited the Barkley Plantation, an assisted living facility in Cadiz on Thursday, April 22. Last year, Donaldson was awarded a grant to assist seniors. Her exercises and programming aims to enrich the aging mind.

Aging in place was the impetus behind Grace Donaldson’s Elder Wellness Enrichment Initiative Grant application.

The Kentucky Office of Rural Health provided funding to award three applicants up to $5,000.

Donaldson works at Pennyrile District Health Department, serving as health education and community outreach coordinator. She was awarded the application in the fall of 2020 and was required to complete her project by June 30, 2021.

The grant’s purpose was to help elder rural Kentuckians age in place, Donaldson said.

According to KOHR, the project’s scope included innovative practices that would serve as a best practice in Kentucky, and possibly other states. Nonprofit rural health care organizations and community-based organizations were the designated applicants for the grant.

The Pennyroyal Center in Hopkinsville was a partner in Donaldson’s grant project, she said.

In April, Donaldson said she brought her project to the Barkley Plantation in Cadiz and Rivers Bend Retirement Community in Kuttawa.

Donaldson said aging in place is “a project that was going to make their life more fulfilling here, so they don’t have to go elsewhere outside of our Pennyrile community.”

The educational component of the project enabled residents at these assisted living facilities “to do fun things that were going to teach them how they could make small changes in their day that was going to improve their mood or mental health,” Donaldson said.

A workbook provided exercises aimed to improve cognitive abilities, and a presentation informed residents of terms and emotions associated with mental health.

Ruminating thoughts is a theme Donaldson referenced in her planning and programming.

She said she took into account the quarantine component of aging in place — isolation and incubation oftentimes negatively affect mental health stability.

Chandler Greenwell joined Donaldson at both events. Greenwell is a certified prevention specialist for the Pennyroyal Center.

“Grace did most of the work involved, which could not have been easy. She kept the folks engaged while I was presenting and we worked together to help plant succulents and provide lunch to the residents,” Greenwell said.

Planting succulents was another facet of Donaldson’s project. Caring for plants required daily attention and establishes a routine throughout the day, tasks that develop and reinforce positive habits, Donaldson said.

“Although I don’t have too much personal attachment driving me to do the work that I do, I really believe that starting conversations about mental health is everyone’s business,” Greenwell said.

Sandra Kaminskas is the community service coordinator at Rivers Bend. She said she thought the event was fantastic and brought a sorely needed rejuvenation to the residents.

Kaminskas said it was the first event since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted at the facility.

Both Donaldson and Greenwell worked in unison to provide mental health awareness to nearly 50 residents at the two assisted living facilities.

After each presentation, Donaldson wanted them to walk away with tools to mitigate any existential fatigue, alienation, harmful ideations, and emotional inhibitors.