All my life I sought out a career that I thought would entail two things: children and helping those around me. After observing multiple speech therapists in different settings, I had my mind set on pediatric speech therapy and was sure that wouldn’t change. I created a long-term plan of what I needed to accomplish in order to succeed in this field and embarked on my journey as a Junior in high school.
After recently talking with a current speech-language pathology graduate student at Northern Illinois University, I quickly recognized her passion for gerontology. As I talked to her about her thesis, it didn’t take long for her to convince me to broaden my horizons and give geriatrics a shot; after all I was always told the more experience in your field the better. As I started my research with her and my mentor, Dr. Mayer, I knew that this experience would make me step outside my comfort zone but oddly enough I was ready for the challenge!
As baby boomers are getting older I have recognized the importance of speech-language pathologist; they are in such high demand. Today, there are more than 35 million people who are affected by Alzheimer’s disease (Bayles & Tomoeda, 2014). This number is said to increase, as baby boomers get older.
As we dive into our 7th week of research I have found a new excitement. The feeling I get when walking into Lincolnshire Place to paint with our participants is unlike any other. I can honestly say that I am able to forget about everything going on around me and focus on what’s right in front of me; the residents. For the first time ever, I felt an instant connection with one of the patients at the nursing home which really caught me off guard. This patient had a smile that lit up the room and instantly reminded me of my grandma. That was the first moment that started my interest of working with older adults.
My research has not only allowed to step outside of my comfort zone and work with a different population compared to my previous involvement, but it has provided me with the essentials to gain hands on experience in our field. I knew this research would offer me a unique experience but I didn’t think this experience would alter my future career plans.
Older adults have so many stories and experiences to share. As I partake in our PAINT sessions every Saturday I think to myself, this could be one of my family members one day. That thought alone makes me passionate about working with the older adult population. Our participants have families of their own who are so supportive and caring. There is truly no better feeling than watching the participants smile and laugh throughout our time together.
To end on a positive note, this past week I received an e-mail from ISHA, Illinois Speech and Hearing Association, saying my proposal for a 15 minute presentation has been accepted. I will officially be presenting my research at this statewide convention in February. The past three years I have attended this convention as a volunteer and assisted in things like setting up rooms and checking people in. For the first time, I will be on the other side of the spectrum and have the opportunity to present what I will have been working on for months. I am so fortunate to have been given these countless opportunities and cannot wait to continue to strive for success.
By Megan Haduch