Many people spend most of their lives searching for a career they love. Melissa Alexander, the new Life Enrichment Director at Acacia Health Center and Desert Willow Memory Care, did not have that problem.
Melissa found her passion for working with seniors at an early age. Her mother worked in a nursing home and Melissa would spend time at the community. Melissa was not very close with her grandparents, so she looked forward to visiting with residents. Through these daily conversations, Melissa formed close bonds with the residents and learned about their past adventures. Even as a young girl, Melissa knew she wanted to work with the senior population for the rest of her life.
In high school, Melissa began working in a long-term care community doing housekeeping and laundry before transitioning to the kitchen to become the dietary aid and cook. After exploring these areas of senior living, Melissa finally found her calling in the activities department. She worked as an activity assistant for many years and decided to pursue a higher education to further her skills.
Melissa earned a bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation and a certificate in gerontology from the University of Northern Iowa. After graduating, she returned to working at a long-term care and skilled nursing community as the activity director. After many years in senior living activities, Melissa branched out to working at an adult day center because it allowed her to work with those who have dementia and those who have experienced a traumatic brain injury.
After eight years working at the adult day center, Melissa relocated to Arizona and found opportunities to work in assisted living and memory care communities once again.
That brings Melissa to her new position at Sagewood, Acacia and Desert Willow as the Life Enrichment Director. With over 25 years of experience and a wealth of knowledge, Melissa is ready to take on the role as the Life Enrichment Director where she will be assisting with scheduled programs, providing oversight and support to the communities, and ensuring that activities offered in assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing adhere to the dimensions of wellness and Sagewood standards.
Melissa is hoping to add more programs that provide lifelong learning opportunities for the residents. She also is planning to incorporate more sensory activities and programs that give the residents in memory care a greater sense of purpose. Melissa has a strong belief that seniors want to continue to learn and grow as individuals and just because they live in assisted living or memory care does not mean this should stop.
“I believe that working in activities allows me the opportunity to make a difference in residents’ lives each day. I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else,” Melissa shares. “I’m looking forward to collaborating with the Acacia team members in bringing all three areas of care together for the greater good of the residents.”
When she isn’t working, you can find Melissa riding her bike, traveling, attending musicals and plays at the theatre and spending times with friends. She is also a huge fan of the Minnesota Wild hockey team so if you are also a hockey fan, strike up a conversation with Melissa!