Bertha Wachowski walks into Ardent Manor like it’s a second home.
She hugs and kisses the owners of the adult day center — and everyone else in her path.
At nearly 92, she comes to the center five days a week. She’s been doing that since the first day it opened last month.
After arriving around 10 a.m. on a recent day, she was quickly put to “work.” She helped decorate paper pumpkin cut-outs for a wall in the dining room.
She shared the work with another “guest for the day,” Pat Frank, 78.
“You look wonderful,” Wachowski told Frank, touching her new friend gently on the nose.
Both women suffer from dementia. At the center, their minds and bodies are kept busy, helping curb the boredom and confusion they might feel at home.
After spending a few minutes sipping warm, spiced tea from travel mugs and making pumpkins out of construction paper, the two women got their next assignment — to replant flowers that needed a new home.
“You’ll have to look over the supplies and see if there is something I didn’t bring or forgot,” said Helen Waite, the center’s executive director and a co-owner with her husband. She was tapping their brains again.
“We’re going to be playing with dirt,” said Brenda Stelzer, part of the center’s nursing staff.
Wachowski and Frank used plastic cups to dig potting soil out of a bag, then dumped it into terra-cotta pots they decorated with bright foam stickers the day before.
“Look at that. Oh boy,” Wachowski said excitedly as she filled her pot with dirt.
Stelzer encouraged her to count the number of flowers on her plant. They did it aloud together.
When dirt spilled onto newspaper that covered her work area, Wachowski started scraping it up with a damp cloth.
“Look at that,” she said. “That drives me crazy.”
Frank wasn’t so concerned about making a mess. Dirt fell all around her. When she was done with one pot, she wanted to do another. “Shouldn’t we finish?” she asked.
After repotting her first plant, Wachowski held it up in the air proudly.
How ‘bout this,” she said.
“Good job,” Frank said, encouragingly.
With latex gloves still covering her hands, Wachowski jokingly treated them like they were a fancy pair she might wear to church or on a date in the old days.
“I’ll be going out,” she quipped.
After finishing up with the plants, the two day guests worked their way back toward the front of the center, where they sat and chatted at a table like old friends for a few minutes.
Next on the agenda was singing and exercise, using pool noodles. Soon after it would be time for lunch.
It was another busy morning at Ardent Manor. It was filled with jokes, laughter and fun activities.
MaryAnn O’Donnell, Wachowski’s daughter and caregiver, is so glad she found the day center. Taking care of Wachowski has been more difficult these days, as she’s also dealing with a sick husband, who is fighting cancer.
Her mom has lived with her for more than 20 years in eastern Collier County.
“I’ve never left my mom with anyone,” said O’Donnell, 74. “This has really made it easier for me.”
She’s noticed big changes in her mother since she started going to the center. She’s more creative and sleeps a lot better.
“She loves it,” O’Donnell said. “I thinks she’s really bonded with everybody.”
Connect with Laura Layden at www.naplesnews.com/staff/laura_layden.