Monday, March 21, 2011

Health Care Hero: Rosa Griffith, Levindale

The Maryland Daily Record's Health Care Heroes awards ceremony honors special caregivers who exemplify extraordinary commitment to their profession. The breakfast to honor the 2011 finalists, which includes Levindale's Rosa Griffith, is on Wednesday, March 23.

by Janine Boulad, Director of Volunteer Services at Levindale and Courtland Gardens

With a twinkle in her eye and a smile, Rosa Griffith showed everyone at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital how much she cared for them, especially the residents who were the most challenging. She didn’t even start volunteering here until the age of 77, after she had survived a stroke. Rosa passed away late last year, but leaves a legacy of love and inspiration with everyone who knew her.

Rosa was one of the most remarkable people I had ever met. When she started visiting residents, she chose those who needed the most tender-loving care; the residents who were unresponsive, the residents who were extremely angry about their situation, as well as the ones with no families. She delighted in the humanity of every living soul. They were “her people,” and she was devoted to them.

As an example, when one particularly angry young man was transferred to another facility, she promised him that she would visit him wherever he went- and she did. This was a woman who used a walker and took public transportation to get where she needed to go. She was always trying to be a better volunteer. She was an example to residents, patients, staff and other volunteers.

Rosa never missed an opportunity to learn the most she could about each patient and resident she visited. She would find out what each one liked before he or she became impaired. She attended every training session offered. She learned skills to work with people who had aphasia and dementia. She learned to feed residents who needed assistance.

After volunteering at Levindale for about a year, I suggested to Rosa that she might be interested in becoming a hospice volunteer. She agreed immediately. Being a hospice volunteer requires a lot of additional training and a lot of extra paperwork for every visit. I thought Rosa might cut back on her other visits…but no, she just worked longer days, sometimes eight or nine hours- or she would come in an extra day to make sure she saw everyone.

In addition, Rosa was gifted with her hands and crocheted beautiful blankets and shawls to give to Levindale residents. She prayed with them, for them and held their hands. She was never bothered by bad smells or odd behaviors. When one of her hospice patients passed she would make the effort to attend his or her funeral service.

One incident I will never forget involved a freelance photographer who was supposed to take a picture of Rosa with a resident. It just so happens, Rosa was reading the Bible to the resident with a magnifying glass because she couldn’t see very well. However, when I turned around, the photographer was outside of the room crying. I asked her what was wrong, she answered through her tears, “no one is that kind.”

In the spring of 2010, at age 82, Rosa was diagnosed with cancer. She continued to volunteer, amassing 1,400 hours during her nearly five years at Levindale. She knew her cancer could not be treated, and sometimes she was too weak to volunteer, but she continued to spend time with our hospice patients whenever she could, never complaining about her own problems. Rosa eventually had to stop volunteering completely last July.

Rosa finally succumbed to cancer late in 2010. However, her spirit lives on in the people she truly cared about. For a time that was entirely too short, she brought real joy to everyone.

1 comment:

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