Always a Teacher
By Christy Brudin
Teaching is not just a job, or even a profession. For the great practitioners of the trade, teaching is a calling—a calling to learn, to educate, and above all, to inspire. Charles “Charlie” Scanzello heeded the call to the classroom early. He became a Professor of Music at Kutztown University in 1970. Today, his classes are smaller and less formal, but no less inspired. Now a resident at The Oaks, a senior living community specializing in memory impairment operated by Genesis HealthCare, Charlie leads both music and poetry classes for his fellow residents.
Located on the outskirts of Philadelphia in Wyncote, Pa., The Oaks offers secured dementia care in a nurturing, home-like environment. As part of the Genesis HealthCare network, The Oaks is backed by the largest long-term care provider in the United States.
Charlie had a long and successful career at Kutztown University from 1970 to 1996. After retiring, he had more time to devote to writing poetry, and he has always been eager to share his talents.
“He is always playing or writing,” said his wife, Angela Scanzello. “Charlie has always been a performer, and he just loved being in the classroom, and he loves having an audience now at The Oaks.”
Charlie and Angela Scanzello met on a blind date set up by his brother-in-law. The young couple visited an exhibit on Italian commercial art at the University of Pennsylvania. That blind date led to a brief courtship and a long marriage. Charlie and Angela will celebrate their 53rd wedding anniversary in June.
After settling near Kutztown University, the Scanzellos had three children, two sons and a daughter. Following several years of teaching at the community college level, Angela received her Ph.D. and became an English Professor at the University.
Over the years, Charlie started to experience some medical problems. He is a diabetic and has congestive heart failure. He also suffers from vascular dementia. As his medical needs increased, Angela began to assume more caregiving duties.
Charlie’s first visit to The Oaks was for a respite stay. The respite stay gave Angela a much-needed reprieve from caregiving and allowed her to pursue her interest in painting during a weeklong workshop. When Angela started to experience some vision problems which prevented her from driving Charlie to his many doctors’ appointments, the family decided that it was time for him to move to a community where he could receive fulltime, professional care. They again turned to The Oaks.
The Scanzellos’ daughter, Dr. Carla Scanzello, originally found The Oaks while researching personal care communities near her home. As a medical doctor, she knew that the community could provide the care and secure environment her father needed.
Unlike the dementia care units inside more traditional personal care facilities, The Oaks is able to offer distinct levels of care to residents with early and mid-stage dementia, as well as those with end-stage dementia. With a singular focus on treating residents with dementia, the community can provide the staffing levels and facility set up necessary to meet the changing care needs of residents.
“We have a dedicated recreation staff, with a staff person focused solely on planning a full-day of activities for early-stage residents, and a staff person focused solely on planning a full day of activities for late-stage residents,” explained Luanne Crispo, Marketing and Admissions Director at The Oaks. “This higher concentration of staff members means we can meet residents where they are and ensure that they achieve their highest possible level of engagement and functioning.”
Beyond activities, The Oaks also offers a unique environment. The main building of the property is a beautiful stone structure complete with turrets that was built in 1908. Inside the historic building, residents enjoy modern care and amenities. With licensed nurses on duty 24 hours a day, the community is always ready to provide for any resident’s needs. The Oaks also offers a secure garden area, so residents can spend time outside independently, while still remaining safe. Finally, residents enjoy a high degree of privacy, with all private rooms and bathrooms. Qualified caregivers assist residents with all the necessary activities of daily living, including showering, right in the comfort of their private rooms. In addition to the quality care offered on-site, since The Oaks is part of the Genesis HealthCare network, the community can also offer a continuum of care including long-term nursing care and rehabilitation by partnering with nearby sister communities.
Since moving, Charlie has adjusted quickly to his new home. His poetry classes and accordion performances are prominently featured on the daily activity calendar and are extremely popular among the residents. “We want our residents to remain as independent as possible,” said Crispo. “Charlie is an excellent example of how our residents can flourish in this environment. As soon as he is in front of his peers, the professor in him comes out, and he commands attention.”
Angela agrees. “I talk to him every day, and he is very happy. He has never had a complaint,” she said. “I think he has adjusted so well because they are giving him the opportunity to teach, and he is always teaching somebody something.”
Charlie’s return to the classroom at The Oaks has been a resounding success—both for him and his students. He provides engaging activities and interactions for his fellow residents, while pursuing his lifelong passions for the arts and education. At this point, there is no doubt that Charlie Scanzello will always be called to the classroom, and that his students—regardless of their age or ability—will always leave his classroom inspired.