Linda Craig’s mom, Donalee Verry, “was the best nurse I ever worked with and the reason I became a nurse.”
Verry was a utility nurse who handled every unit wearing her crisp nurse’s cap and white uniform, spreading her competence and compassion at Smithtown General, then when it became Community Hospital of Western Suffolk, and other places. She constantly answered her daughter’s questions at day’s end.
“I always thought she looked like an angel,” Craig said of her mom, a big Josh Groban fan.
Craig’s path was similar. As a teen, she served in the dining room at the Ronkonkoma Cenacle, the beautiful spiritual center where the Cenacle Sisters resided, prayed, and ran workshops; as a nurse, she worked in their infirmary.
“Between my mom and the spirituality of Cenacle Sisters, they viewed death as a celebration and to not be afraid of it.”
She is now a case manager at The Bristal Assisted Living at Sayville, helping residents having a bad day or dilemma, informing family members that counseling may be needed, or getting a team on board to bolster their quality of life so their day is brighter.
Craig, a former Sayville resident who now lives in St. James, has worked at The Bristal for five years, is an Inspiration Award winner. She was nominated by executive director Susan Veneziano and Denise Milligan, director of community relations, for being always willing to lend support in all areas of the community.
“A lot of times because of quarantine, we’re dealing with an emotional piece,” Craig related. “They’ll put on a strong façade, so I’ll contact their son or daughter: ‘Your mom is really struggling. Do you think they can speak with a social worker?’ We become their pseudo family, so you become attached.”
And sometimes, to lighten the load, “I just bake cookies for them.”
If a resident is still languishing in pajamas at 10:30 a.m., she’ll tell them, “Pick a positive thing for today!”
Craig talked about the value of working with seniors.
“I probably get more from my residents than they get from me,” she said. “They give me their wisdom and had amazing lives, so it’s these little tidbits you take with you. Also, there’s no sense of entitlement with this generation and I love to look at their old pictures. Everyone was dressed to the nines for the holidays and family events. It was about being with each other and celebrating.”
Craig related the creative picker-upper that raised spirits at Christmas. “All the staff adopted a resident and did a ‘Little Christmas’ initiative, choosing specific ifts. We went door to door to every single resident, including the young kids who work with us in the dietary section; they gave such nice presents.”
Craig loves relaxing with her family in her off hours, which includes three dogs and a cat. “It’s not a 9-to-5 job,” she admitted. “But people aren’t 9-to-5 and neither are their emotional or physical needs.”