Click here to return to Messiah College's homepage

Alumna brings purpose, demonstrates grace to dementia patients

Relaxing in massage chairs, jamming to tunes on iPods, and going for dips in a private pool may sound like the life of luxury that only the #RichKids of Beverly Hills could pursue. But thanks to Krystal Robinson-Bert, ’10, residents of Messiah Lifeways’ dementia unit are enjoying a life that good.

Growing up as a pastor’s daughter enabled Robinson-Bert to interact with elderly parishioners from an early age.  Service projects at local nursing homes kindled her love for the elderly population.  After graduating with a degree in health and exercise science, concentrating in pre-physical therapy, Robinson-Bert began working at Messiah Lifeways as the Neighborhood Enrichment Specialist for the Asper Special Care Neighborhood. Entering this position in the locked dementia unit with the intention of changing lives, Robinson-Bert says, “The Asper Special Care Neighborhood is often the last place for many residents to reside at Messiah Lifeways before they pass away.  I was determined when I started the job to make each day at the end of their life purposeful and fun!”

Bearing that in mind, Robinson-Bert planned out-of-the-box activities for residents, such as frying faustnauchts with the Village chef, hatching chicks in an incubator, adopting pets and having Valentine’s Day dates with Messiah College gentleman.  In fall 2012, she began using an iPod with specialized playlists for each resident, which yielded significant results.  She says, “The response was dramatic and many residents who didn’t know their own children’s names began singing and dancing.”  Another project included incorporating Snoezelen therapy into their program by creating an extraordinary multi-sensory environment room equipped with heated massage chairs, fiber optic lights, aromatherapy, tactile items and color-changing bubble tubes. In this room Robinson-Bert has seen unresponsive patients become more alert and those with communication problems become more verbal. Remarkably, some residents have even reminisced about the past.  She has also seen anxiety fade when patients have control over something, like changing the color and speed of the bubble tube.

Robinson-Bert says Messiah College prepared her for this job and her career “in every way possible.”  Her introduction to activity coordination for the elderly came during her junior year when she studied abroad in Australia and held an internship as an activities assistant at a nursing home. Through this experience she saw the difference activity coordination could make in the residents’ lives.

Residing in Mechanicsburg with husband Jonathan, Robison-Bert is currently pursuing her master’s degree in occupational therapy at Misericordia University while completing her clinical experience at Harrisburg Hospital.  After she graduates this summer, she hopes to work with the geriatric population in a skilled nursing, rehab or acute care setting.  In August she plans to continue her education and begin her doctorate in occupational therapy, specializing in adults and geriatrics.

Robinson-Bert’s faith greatly impacts her career path, and inspires her daily.  She says, “The individuals that you meet in the healthcare setting are usually in their most vulnerable state.  I often remember Matthew 25:40, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  Being able to treat individuals in their hardest, unpolished and vulnerable moments can be a great opportunity to show and act out God’s unconditional love and grace.”

Story by Katie Johnston `15.

Comments are closed.