Every month we invite one of our team members to sit down and tell us more about their journey to Elder Care Alliance, their role now, and their insights into older adult care. We are excited to share the expertise and knowledge of our many team members who come to work and help our residents live their best lives with us every day.
Today we welcome Sylvia Hartowicz, Spiritual Care Director at AlmaVia of San Rafael.
Us: Hi, Sylvia. Tell us a little about your background and your role at Elder Care Alliance.
Sylvia: I am currently the Spiritual Care Director at AlmaVia of San Rafael. My background is in mental health counseling and art therapy working in many settings, including schools, foster care, group homes, psychiatric hospitals, and outpatient clinics. About 10 years ago, I decided to return to school to pursue my doctorate in East West Psychology, which explores how spirituality and psychology relate to each other. I focused on developing skills as a spiritual counselor with an interest in depth psychology, Buddhist practices, and transpersonal theory. My dissertation was an art-based and narrative study on ancestral consciousness and healing.
Us: How does your work benefit residents at Elder Care Alliance communities?
Sylvia: My background allows me to have deep presence and compassion with residents as they face the challenges of aging. I integrate spirituality into all my groups and provide creative activities that inspire self-reflection and life review as well as build self-esteem, decrease anxiety, and improve mood.
Us: Tell us more about a specific feature of your job or duties and what residents can expect to gain from it.
Sylvia: I started my journey with Elder Care Alliance as the Art Therapist/Life Enrichment Specialist at AlmaVia of San Rafael. I have provided both one-on-one support and group activities (including mindfulness practice, guided meditations, art therapy, soulcollage®, art appreciation, writing workshops, poetry discussions, and yoga). Based on the research for my doctorate, I also offer groups for ancestral remembrance that allow an opportunity to both celebrate and grieve those who came before.
Since starting in my new role as Spiritual Care Director last November, I have focused more on supporting residents and their families around end-of-life matters in addition to facilitating the activities listed above. I have also planned and coordinated religious programming and developed other support groups to benefit the community. For example, starting next month, we will have a support group for family members who have loved ones living with Dementia. We will also have a group to help new residents adjust to their new living environment.
Us: What is one of your favorite memories or experiences working at Elder Care Alliance?
Sylvia: For the past year, I have been offering a SoulCollage® group to the residents at AlmaVia of San Rafael. SoulCollage® is an intuitive collage process that allows for insight and self-discovery. I have been surprised and amazed at how the residents have used this process to reflect on their memories and talk about their life experiences. I have found that the process is very accessible and have used it in both assisted living and memory care.
Us: What is the greatest reward that your role at Elder Care Alliance brings?
Sylvia: The relationships I have formed with the residents are so intimate and meaningful. I feel so honored to be with people that have so many wonderful stories to share and who have been through so much.
Us: Can you share any insights into new activities or programs that you are planning for the future?
Sylvia: One of the things I like to do is really honor and celebrate the accomplishments people have made throughout their life. I have organized book readings and art openings for residents so that they have an opportunity to share their work with the community. We will continue to have monthly happenings in this way and we have some really talented people to celebrate in the coming months.
*Editorial Note: SoulCollage® is a collage process inspired by the works of Seena B. Frost, M.A. Frost used her background in theology, psychotherapy, art, and archetypes to create the empowering collage process that is now called SoulCollage®. This process is used by people around the world for self-discovery and self-guidance purposes.