Patti Collins started as a dining room server at The Bristal Assisted Living at Sayville. “I worked early morning,” Collins said. “You get to know the residents’ likes, so it was, ‘Pinky, do you want your Rice Krispies today?’ or ‘Ken, do you want your banana?’ It made them feel more comfortable and at home. At the time, we’d give them hugs, too.”
That was almost six years ago when The Bristal, an independent and assisted living facility with levels of care, first opened. Listening to stories of people who worked, had children, lived through major historical events both scary and great, revealed wisdom in bucking up through life’s challenges and ironies, are sage and valuable lessons for Collins. Her empathy and eagerness to pitch in got her promotions. She is now nighttime assistant administrator.
Also, an Inspiration Award winner. (Yes, she was surprised and very modest.)
“For me, I didn’t grow up with grandparents and my mom passed away when I was 22,” Collins said of the passion for her work. “When I started this relationship with these seniors, I treat them as if they are my mother, father or grandparents. If I have an opportunity to live to 95, find purpose in life and joke around like they do, I’m inspired by them. And I see the relationships they have with their grandchildren.”
Collins, a Sayville resident, first worked as a teacher, stayed home for several years to raise her children (she has a son, 26, and a daughter, 20) and was a senior citizen coordinator in Smithtown before stepping into her new career path.
One of Collins’s initiatives was starting a Women’s Club, when she became recreation assistant and planned activities. “I was doing it informally and realized there was a need for them to express themselves,” she said; about 17 attended. “They felt a camaraderie and a kinship with each other, whether it was losing their husband, health issues, movies they liked. They could vent,” she said.
In her new position, “I interact a lot with staff and get in at 3:30 p.m.,” she said. “A lot of the residents are up. I do supervision as well and oversee the housekeeping, maintenance, sometimes I’ll even fix a bed. I make sure the dinner is okay and we’re properly staffed. I feel I’m a support to everyone else. If a resident pops out of their room and says, ‘I didn’t get milk for my coffee,’ I’ll get it. And I’m involved with the Wellness Program.”
Collins was recommended by Susan Veneziano, executive director, and Denise Milligan, director of community relations, who applauded her team-player attitude and efforts to go above and beyond to help residents.
“One female resident felt she was a burden to her daughter because of doctors’ appointments and other things,” Collins recalled. “I told her, ‘Please don’t feel that way. I don’t have my mother and would do anything to have her with me again. I know your daughter is grateful.’”