A Wonderful World Called Wingate

By Joan Borowitz, a resident at Wingate at Needham

Wingate at Needham is made up of three large care units. Sargent, a short-term care rehab unit, is where residents come after surgery, accidents, severe illnesses and strokes. Homer and Copley units are the larger long-term care subdivisions. Many of the nurses perform life-saving procedures and have enough knowledge to work closely with nurse practitioners and physicians. Another key component of Wingate at Needham is the essential rehab department, a state-of-the-art gym, which has a full-time staff of physical, occupational and speech therapists. This unit is essential in helping residents recover and flourish.

After spending several months in the Sargent Unit due to kidney and bladder problems, I chose to remain at Wingate at Needham even after my recovery. I moved to Copley, a larger long-term care unit. It was a transition moving from a unit where I had bonded with nurses and certified nursing assistants to a unit roughly twice the size of Sargent and one where I was the youngest patient.

It was also a challenge adapting to living alone and far away from friends and family. My family is largely made up of Harvard lawyers, one a famous political satirist for the New Yorker and one an author of true crime books as well as murder mysteries. While it can be difficult to feel far removed from family, I get visitors here, and the greatest gift has been my “adoption” by my elderly, neighborly family and Wingate staff members.

The Wonderful World of Wingate

To give you a better idea of Wingate at Needham’s excellent staff members, who I now call my family, I circulated a questionnaire to learn more about who they are, not just what they do. In the interest of respecting their privacy, I have kept the responses confidential. Here are the questions I asked:

  1. How long have you worked at Wingate?
  2. What led you to want to work in your choice of profession?
  3. What is your favorite part of the job (patient care, working with a diverse group of people, etc.)?
  4. How do you handle stress when under pressure?
  5. What is a favorite story from your personal life?
  6. How would you describe yourself?

One of my responses came from a CNA who has worked at Wingate for 23 years. She described herself as compassionate, and said her priority is ensuring her residents attend activities on a daily basis. One of her favorite aspects of her job is making the elderly happy. In her free time, she loves to travel with her family.

Another respondent was a nurse who worked as a CNA for nine years and always aspired to become a nurse. She went to school and has worked at Wingate as a registered nurse for seven years. She enjoys meeting diverse populations and handles stress by focusing on the task at hand! She described herself as “easygoing” and “compassionate,” and her dearest personal memories are of the births of her children.

One respondent was a newcomer to Wingate at Needham, an energetic young woman who has worked for just over a year as an occupational therapist. She felt led to work in the healthcare field after visiting her mother, a nurse, in her office. Her favorite part of her job is working with her patients and hearing about their lives. She enjoys the support and opportunity for collaborative learning among her co-workers in the rehab department. In her free time, she enjoys visiting her family in Cape Cod and spending time with her boyfriend and their adorable Golden Retriever puppy, who they take to the park every day (a huge stress reliever)! This bouncy and energetic young occupational therapist said she uses humor when working with angry or sad patients who are medically compromised.

One of the most delightful personal stories came from our receptionist, who’s worked at Wingate for nine years and hails from South Africa. She told many wildly humorous stories about life with her family. In South Africa, she explained, many young children often ran barefoot, and when she made the transition to America, her young children continued to climb everywhere barefoot. At one point she got a panicky call from her five-year-old son’s kindergarten teacher, saying he had climbed barefoot up to a low roof at school. As our receptionist, this mother can multitask in an impressively energetic way — no matter how much she is juggling, she’s always kind, organized and welcoming. And she has a passion for cheering up the elderly patients. Her many hobbies include flying glider planes, designing clothes, playing bass guitar — she’s been in a band for six years — and teaching classical piano, which she’s done for over 20 years.

Among the CNA staff, the majority are from Haiti and have formed a loving bond with each other and the residents. One of my favorites is a long-term CNA called “Ma” because of her amazing gift for being a maternal presence. Ma is popular and hardworking. She and my young evening CNA, a superbly organized and funny woman, make a dream team. As with many staff members here, their rehab “family” of patients is very important to them.

It can be very overwhelming and challenging to care for such a large population of chronically ill patients. However, the gifted, devoted and wonderful staff makes one feel as close to home as possible.  “Wingate” stands for “WIN-ners!”


About the Author:

Joan Borowitz is a resident at Wingate at Needham and a freelance writer. For two years, she had a column in the Hopkinton Crier entitled “Sentimental Journeys.” Joan was raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and left home at age 17 to live and study in a tiny Quaker boarding school in Barnesville, Ohio. After graduation, she moved to Boston and attended Simmons College. She graduated in 1977 with a Bachelor of Arts in communications. In addition to professional writing and hospital administration, she had a successful five-year stint as Boston’s only female Jewish standup comedian. She formed a comedy group in Boston called “Class Acts,” which performed in many local comedy clubs. Currently, she is a resident at Wingate at Needham, where you can find her writing and playing piano for the residents.