BIDDEFORD, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — It’s that time of year when high school and college graduates head out into the real world to begin the next phase of their lives.
At the University of New England, a few students each year take part in a unique project to get them ready for their chosen professions. It allows them to become the people they will eventually care for. Students who take part in the project call it life changing. Not just in a way that helps them professionally, but on a personal level as well.
First-year medical student Sarae Sager checked into the St. Andre Health Care Facility in Biddeford on Wednesday. For the next 10 days, she will live there and receive care. Not as herself, but as an 85-year-old woman who just suffered a stroke.
“I think it will be kind of like traveling through time, acting as if I’m an 85-year-old, instead of 23,” she said.
The staff there will ignore the fact that she’s 23 and treat her like all the others residents there.
“She will wear depends, she will be toileted, she will be bathed, she will eat pureed food, she’ll be on a medication regiment,” said her professor Marilyn Gugliucci.
By reversing roles and going from caregiver to patient, Sarae hopes to gain a new perspective on the profession she plans to go into and the people she will be caring for.
“When they come to see me as a physician in the future, I can really be sensitive to what they’re going through and what they need”, she said.
Based on the experience of other students, her professor says the first few days will be spent just getting used to her surroundings. But in the middle of this experience, Sarae will realize, for the patients around her, this is home. They won’t be going back to their other homes.
“Every student has gone through something. Depression, migraines, doesn’t feel well, whatever it may be. There’s something about that day 5,” said Gugliucci.
The students do get through that and by the end, they feel like a part of the nursing home community. What they get here in 10 days is something they can't get from a whole semester in a classroom.
“There’s no way I can teach this, there is absolutely no way to teach this project”, said Gugliucci.
Sarae is convinced the person she is now, will not be the same person when this experience ends.
“I’m sure this will be a life changing experience and I’ll learn a lot from it,” she said.
Her professor is convinced of it.
“It will change who Sarae is,” Gugliucci said
Sarae Sager will be discharged from St. Andre’s a week from Friday. We will be there to learn from her, about life in a nursing home.