Michelle Kotwicki: Putting the "Social" in St. Anne's Mead
Michelle Kotwicki began her social work career helping pregnant teenagers in Toledo Public Schools, a role she found challenging and rewarding. After taking time to raise two children, Hanna and Ethan, she found her calling helping another generation, senior citizens. “I loved working with teens, but I really love the care I can provide in a geriatric setting,” said Michelle.
Michelle began working in long-term care in 1998 as an activity assistant and rose through the ranks to be a social worker and activity director. She quickly linked the importance of social activities to bonding with residents and providing care.
Understanding that communication is both verbal and non-verbal, Michelle looks for cues. “If I work with someone who could not communicate through a conversation, I make a connection with them through an activity." She asserts that we take it for granted, but the social and recreational activities really improve quality of life, especially for someone living with dementia.
Finding Her Second Home
After working in a variety of long-term and skilled nursing facilities, in 2014, Michelle discovered her second home at St. Anne’s Mead. “I found the knowledge to be greater and levels of care to be personalized at St. Anne’s Mead. It is a stabilizing environment. It is not one size fits all," she said.
She found she could help residents, and their family members, understand that while we can’t replace the home they came from, we can help them adapt to a new way of being home.
A package deal, Michelle has been bringing her little dog, Milo, the “assistant social worker,” to St. Anne’s Mead since the beginning. But do not let his size fool you, Milo packs a punch of bossiness and makes the rounds at St. Anne’s Mead like any good caregiver does. “He’s grown up at St. Anne’s Mead, so he has a sense of love and loyalty to this place. He gets to know residents and has many special relationships,” said Michelle.
Michelle is resident social worker and program manager for the Memory Care Home, which opened in 2018 and has been going strong ever since.
Reflecting on the past seven years at St. Anne's Mead, Michelle says she can finally be the social worker she was meant to be.