Fun for all: Dot Myers of Perry Oaks was recently named 'Activity Director of the Year'

Monday, December 6, 2010
Dot Myers, Activities Director at Perry Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Perryville, gives a teddy bear to resident Cecelia Brewer for winning a game of bingo as fellow resident Irma Meyer, left, looks on. Myers was recently named Activity Director of the Year by the Activity Director Association of Missouri. (Kristin Eberts)

Not many adults can say they're still working their first job -- and that they still love it -- but Dot Myers can say it with confidence. In fact, she's worked at Perry Oaks Nursing and Rehab for 35 years, and was recently named "Activity Director of the Year" for 2010 by the Activity Directors Association of Missouri (ADAM).

"I guess you could say I grew up here," says Myers, who began working at Perry Oaks when she was 16. She started off in laundry and housekeeping, then as assistant activity director -- working with her mother, who was activity director at the time -- and became activity director in the early 1980s. "The elderly have always had a special place in my heart. I was close to my grandparents and spent a lot of time with them," says Myers. "It takes a special kind of person to work in a nursing home. You have to have a caring and loving heart. It's not about a job. This is different. You have to be caring, loving and respectful."

Myers says her No. 1 priority is making sure her nearly 70 residents are happy, and that their home is a happy one. She coordinates bingo, shuffleboard and washer tosses; country music performances and church services; scenic drives and outings to Perryville's annual Mayfest, and much more.

"Sometimes I really have to get creative and be careful not make the activities childish, but to make them age-appropriate. We're all kids at heart, but we still want to keep it age-appropriate for them," says Myers.

Myers also makes sure her residents have access to plenty of books, puzzles and games, and she coordinates "one-to-ones," matching residents with volunteers or employees who will visit, read and spend time with them. On Fridays, Myers meets individually with the ladies of Perry Oaks to visit and give them manicures.

"A lot of it is socialization," says Myers. "They like to get together with their friends. I would say that's the biggest part of it, is giving them something constructive to do. They like to feel like they're needed."

Myers was nominated for the ADAM award by Perry Oaks administrator Marla Baughman and her coworkers, but she didn't know that until the organization's annual convention in September.

"I had no idea. I was so shocked," she recalls. "A lady from ADAM's state office was reading a letter and I thought, 'That sounds like the things we do.' When she said Mayfest, I knew who it was."

Says Baughman, "She's been here forever, and all the residents love her. I felt she deserved the recognition."

Myers is flattered but won't let it go to her head -- she simply wants to continue planning fun activities and keeping her residents happy and active.

"I like the residents and the closeness I get to all of them. It's a family atmosphere," says Myers. "I hope that I always have an open mind to anything new. ... I want to make sure to try new things with the residents and be open to suggestions. Everybody has different talents and ideas, so I always want to be ready to listen and act on what other people like to do."

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