By Harry Glazer
What does someone do if he is blessed with a sharp mind and finds himself, due to medical conditions, living in a nursing home?
If you’re someone like Michael Wallach, you find many ways to continue to challenge yourself intellectually and to contribute to your new home.
Michael, who moved into the Parker at River Road home in the winter of 2012/2013, has a doctorate in cell biology. He did his graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and his dissertation research at the Wistar Institute. Michael remained at the Wistar for a number of years as a staff scientist after receiving his doctorate.
Upon arriving at Parker, Michael soon sized up his surroundings and saw an opportunity to enhance the activities offered by the recreation department. He met with recreation department leaders and proposed to give monthly talks on thought-provoking topics. They took him up on his offer and Michael has been on the speakers’ circuit ever since.
Since December 2013, Michael has presented dozens of talks in the nursing home and in the Adult Day program. His most popular talk was one given in the winter titled “Searching for Santa Claus,” a historical look at the origins of the much beloved character and an effort to prove that Santa Claus really does exist. He has also spoken about the destruction of Pompeii, World War II Navajo code talkers, the Monuments Men (during the same war), NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope and the search for earthlike planets, how birds are living dinosaurs, the Water Tribunal of Velencia, Spain – a 1000 year old court — and a wide variety of other topics.
Recently, Michael branched out and has begun giving “Travel to” talks, complete with a number of eye-catching Google Earth images, to highlight the attractions of exotic cities and countries across the world. His first two talks, “Travel to – Israel” and “Travel to – Transylvania,” were very well received. These virtual tours are now part of the monthly recreation calendar.
While presenting the talks and going about the homes, Michael has identified other opportunities where he can apply his skills and make valuable contributions.
He has made co-presentations on a range of medical topics, as part of the monthly “Parker Rounds” talks held by Parker’s medical director Dr. David Howarth. He has also spoken with small groups of Dr. Howarth’s medical residents and students, focusing on the molecular biology of certain conditions and diseases to complement Dr. Howarth’s talks on the clinical aspects. They are currently working on a new set of presentations for the nursing staff, medical residents, and medical students.
He got to talking with the Senior Director of Nursing, Michael Yannotta, and he learned about Mr. Yannotta’s interest in investigating the impact of sensitivity – between staff members, staff and residents, and management and staff – on the quality of care at Parker. Michael got to work on a literature search on the topic and identified 125 references in peer reviewed journals that touched on this topic. He is currently developing a questionnaire that Parker will use to better understand how staff views issues of sensitivity. Michael foresees that his research project will give Parker a knowledge base on this topic, which can be consulted as a resource when leaders consider assessing or revising policy and procedures.
“Michael Wallach has made so many delightful contributions here that, frankly, I’ve lost count of all the great things he’s done and is doing for us!” said Carol Burt, Senior Administrator of Parker’s homes on River Road and Landing Lane. “He’s a high-quality researcher and a skilled speaker with many interests, who is eager to engage with our staff and our residents. We are so grateful that he devotes himself to these pursuits and carries through with such professional skill – they’ve made a major difference in our homes.”
By Harry Glazer