By Melissa Moore
Sales and Marketing Manager
Walking into the Health Center at Kendal at Granville, frequently one of the first things you will notice is the music. There is often music playing in some capacity, and it is to the credit of the Life Enrichment Director, Gabriella Drago. Upon meeting Gabriella, you will probably first encounter Freesia, her guide dog. Freesia loves greeting people and has become a beloved member of the Kendal Health Center staff. Gabriella is a Board Certified Music Therapist, and she uses her expertise to increase relaxation, decrease anxiety, and improve the quality of life for the residents.
Music has always been an integral part of Gabriella’s life. She started taking piano lessons at the age of five and continued through the age of 15. She always loved to sing, she never took voice lessons but participated in every choir and musical at school. She always loved the guitar, so she taught herself how to play at the age of 16. Her love of music took her to Baldwin Wallace University after she completed High School, and she graduated with her bachelor’s in music therapy. She wasn’t sure how exactly she wanted to use her degree; she just knew that she wanted to help people.
Gabriella leads the Activities Department and helps to find ways to keep residents in assisted living and skilled nursing feel like they are being productive. She loves planning activities that center around things the residents really enjoy doing, like baking or creating art. Helping our residents with dementia through music has become a true passion of hers. “If you look at an active MRI of someone with dementia who is listening to music, all of the different parts of the brain light up. Traditionally the left side of the brain deteriorates first with dementia, but it is the right side of our brain that recognizes rhythm. So even if the resident has a hard time verbalizing their thoughts, they are still able to sing.” Gabriella is frequently coming up with inventive and fun ways for the residents, and the staff to engage with music. For National “Have Fun at Work” Day, Gabriella encouraged members of the management staff to come up with teams, complete with themes, to parade through the health center to bring levity to the residents. She also understands the value of all musical instruments, even down to the kazoo. At one of the Manager’s meetings last year, a great deal of time was spent on the value of kazoos and the fun we could all have using them.
The Activities Team dresses up for "Have Fun at Work Day"
Gabriella will often be the first one to dress up in a fun costume, or sing loudly to entice everyone else to join in, or walk down the halls, strumming her guitar, just so the residents have something nice to listen to. Being around Gabriella you cannot help but have some of her infectious spirit rub off on you. The residents and staff are very grateful for the passion, joy, and music that Gabriella has brought to Kendal.
The Activities Team (including Freesia) dress up
Freesia is the cutest ice cream cone