One would expect a Berklee College of Music graduate to be a talented musician but being able to sing in 10 languages gives new meaning to the word “multilingual.” Sara Slusarski, a Music Therapist at German Centre, can do just that. Sara is fluent in Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Italian, Latvian, Russian, Haitian-Creole, and Hebrew. Not surprisingly, Sara loves to dance, and sing – in many different languages!
Sara, whose younger brother Chris is very skilled with woodworking, also serves as the “handy-man” of the house. Her older sister Katie is passionate about English Literature and is an avid reader. In her spare time, Sara enjoys cooking, baking, crocheting, and dancing. Growing up in Bristol, RI, there were always animals in Sara’s household: dogs, cats, fish, and hamsters. In 2007, the scenario changed when Murphy, an adorable shih tzu joined the family. Murphy now lives with Sara in Somerville. “He’s my best friend,” stated Sara with a smile.
Sara became interested in the healthcare profession at a very young age. Her mother is a home care visiting nurse and her grandmother worked in nursing homes until her retirement. When Sara was 12, her grandmother was diagnosed with dementia. As Sara explained, “I knew dementia was a terrible disease, but I didn’t truly understand the scope of the disease until I saw how it affected my grandmother—and my family.” Added Sara, “At the end of her life when she couldn’t remember my name or how she knew me, she would recognize me because I was the ‘musical’ child. When I dressed up, danced, or sang, she seemed to become herself again, even for a brief moment. I realized then just how powerful love and music can be.”
Once she discovered she could major in music therapy, Sara never looked back. “I’ve always been passionate about helping people in my career and the fact that I could do this through music was just so exciting for me,” enthused Sara. “Music is an extremely powerful tool when working with older adults, especially those with dementia.”
Majoring in music therapy at Berklee College of Music, Sara began to fully comprehend the difference between being a music appreciator and a fully licensed music therapist. She felt fortunate she was able to acquire “real life,” hands-on experience while at Berklee. Sara worked at schools with children ages 4-13, including students with special needs and behavioral/emotional needs. She also worked in a memory care unit with older adults, a community center, and in the children’s oncology unit at Mass General Hospital.
Sara’s time at German Centre has convinced her that the skilled nursing residence is truly unique. “I have been particularly impressed with the resident life staff who provide such wonderful care for our residents. They are attentive, patient, and compassionate.” Sarah’s goal is to encourage the residents and engage them through music as well as in their regular day-to-day routine. As Sarah explained, “We want to establish meaningful, genuine connections.”
“In a relatively short time, Sara has made a positive impact not only with the residents at German Centre but with the families and staff as well,” said Michael Lincoln, Executive Director of German Centre. “We are thrilled to have her on board.”
As a music therapist, Sara’s biggest professional challenge has been witnessing a resident’s decline due to illness. “I personally care so much for each resident. I want to see them thrive,” admitted Sara. “I just try to remind myself that I’m making a difference in their lives. Moreover, we have many ‘success’ stories that are incredibly heartwarming and inspiring.”
For Sara, the best part of her job is seeing the residents every day. “They are truly remarkable and I thoroughly enjoy the daily interaction,” said Sara. When asked if she made the right career choice in coming to German Centre, Sara didn’t even hesitate, “Absolutely,” she said adamantly. “This is definitely where I’m meant to be!”