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An unwavering commitment

Pheasant Wood mainstay honored as N.H. Health Care Volunteer of the Year

PETERBOROUGH — Marie Adler recently crocheted 50 tiny Christmas trees for residents of the Alzheimer’s disease unit at Pheasant Wood Care and Rehabilitation Center.

“I bought stickers so people there could glue or stick them on, and put the trees on their doors,” the 80-year-old Peterborough woman said on Thursday. “It gives them something to do, which is so much better than just sitting.”

Adler has been volunteering at Pheasant Wood ever since her husband, artist and architect Richard Adler, moved there about two years ago. Dick Adler died last summer, after spending time in the Solana program, the center’s unit for people with Alzheimer’s. His wife says she treasures the time she now spends just being with other patients in the program.

“The biggest thing is to just go and visit,” she said. “They give you the biggest smiles. That’s so gratifying.”

Earlier this year, Adler was named Pheasant Wood’s volunteer of the year, and on Nov. 16 she was honored as the N.H. Health Care Association’s Volunteer of the Year at a ceremony in Merrimack. And she was applauded again last week, when the Health Care Association’s award was presented to her during Pheasant Wood’s annual Christmas gathering on Wednesday.

“That made my Christmas holiday,” Adler said. “I was really thrilled. It made me cry a little.”

Mary McArdle, Pheasant Wood’s director of admissions, said Adler had to make a hard choice when she first came to a support group for caregivers at Pheasant Wood.

“It is not an easy decision to have your loved one enter this part of their life,” McArdle said about caring for a person with Alzheimer’s. “We all make that promise that we’ll never put someone in a nursing home. There’s a lot of guilt. Marie worked through that and she has befriended so many people who didn’t have family support. She took us all under her wing. She’s the person we all want to have in our life.”

Adler said she tries to go to Pheasant Wood at least once or twice a week.

“When my husband was there, I went every day for a year. It was difficult, and eventually I wasn’t able to bring myself to go as often. He’s been gone now six months and I go regularly. It’s too bad we can’t get a lot more people, especially with the Alzheimer’s patients.”

Whenever Pheasant Wood has a large function, Adler makes it a point to be there. She helps with the cooking every year in support of the annual Alzheimer’s walk and also participates in a group therapy program for family member of Alzheimer’s patients that meets twice a month.

“We talk with people who are in the same situation we were,” she said. “We can kind of help them along.”

Adler also volunteers at the Mariposa Museum and is on the board of the Peterborough Women’s Club. “I like to get involved,” she said.

McArdle said there are more than 100 long-term care facilities in New Hampshire, so the recognition of Adler by the state association is quite an honor. And it’s well-deserved, according to McArdle.

“Her hand goes up first when anyone needs something,” McArdle wrote when she nominated Adler for the Volunteer of the Year award. “At a time of life’s hardest challenges, Marie looked around to see who needed more than she did. Marie will hold your hand. Marie has lost her beloved husband but not her commitment to the people of Pheasant Wood. We hold hands.”

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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