April 8th, 2020 | COVID-19 Helpful Information
NASA, the space agency of the United States, routinely conducts experiments in which virtual astronauts spend weeks and even months together in confined spaces or small "colonies" to simulate long space voyages, such as those to the moon and Mars. What the astronauts find is that just being with other people is better than being completely isolated, but that they miss the connection with their larger humanity, to culture.
Making our voyage together more enriching.
Imagine that this long stay-at-home period of refraining from contact for coronavirus is a long voyage together. What do you do to keep your mind active, to challenge yourself? How do you retain your human connection?
We thought it would be interesting and helpful to see how our Legend Senior Living Life Enrichment Directors are introducing meaningful, enriching experiences to residents and how you might use their techniques to stay connected on this long "voyage."
We talked to Justin Hanshaw, Life Enrichment Coordinator at Legend at Rivendell, Oklahoma City, OK, and to Lila Fladwood, Life Enrichment Coordinator at Legend of Broomfield, CO.
Adapting to the unusual and making the most of it.
Ordinarily, Life Enrichment at any Legend Senior Living residence would include group games, arts and crafts, musical entertainment, group outings and educational sessions, among others. Since anything with the word "group" is on hold for the duration, our LE directors have turned to imaginative and innovative enrichment activities.
Note: Lila and Justin remind us that all Legend Senior Living associates are screened daily before entering the residence.
What's the key importance to staying positive and mentally engaged when you're forced to stay at home?
Lila: Happy and positive people are less likely to get sick, and or depressed. Positive people and positive attitudes are contagious. The effects of staying in when you'd normally be going out or receiving visitors are intensified by continually watching TV and listening to all the news about the pandemic.
Justin: If you wake up “on the wrong side of the bed” and you tell yourself that you’re going to have a good day, you count three things that are great in your life – even if you have to dig deep, you’re most likely going to have a better day!
Is TV a bad thing or a good thing?
Justin: Watch things that are educational and learn something new, such as documentaries on topics that you are interested in or watch a good ole Disney movie to lift your spirits. You’re NEVER too old for Disney!
Lila: TV can be good if they are watching a game show like Price is Right, Wheel of Fortune, where people are enjoying themselves. The old classic movies are something they can relate to because it was during their era when life was not so complicated.
Isolation might be a challenge any normal day at a residence. How is it different now and what do you do to address it?
Lila: We engage in conversation much more frequently, encourage them to tell their stories, what it was like for them during the Great Depression or World War II and how it affected the entire country, not just their family. We talk about how they survived some of the toughest times in history, and even thrived, and are living to share those stories to a younger generation that thinks this virus is the worst thing ever.
Why is Life Enrichment so important to LSL, anyway?
Justin: Life Enrichment is extremely important in the day to day lives of each resident because it is VITAL that we keep each individual who resides with us happy, healthy and most importantly active physically and mentally so that each resident can have the best quality of life possible. We play an important role making sure each resident believes in themselves.
Does Life Enrichment play a large role in Memory Care? In what ways?
Lila: In Memory Care, especially, we honor their life stories and create activities that enhance those memories. Social distancing makes this more difficult one-on-one, so we have to get creative. We help spark old memories through music, pictures, exercise, worship, and reminiscing. We involve them in art projects, even though they may not have done in the past, but can now express themselves because the filters are gone and they are free to express themselves without ridicule. We give purpose and meaning to activities that will keep them engaged and live in the moment.
What advantages do residents at Legend Senior Living have in times like these?
Lila: We will sit with them if they are not feeling well or are down. We pick up their mail for them and ask if they would like for us to read any cards they received. We will walk their dog if they don’t feel like it. We will bring the fun to their apartment each and every day, by way of reading material, brain builder games, puzzles, nail care, hair styling, Skype reunions, or just helping them write and send greeting cards. We deliver three wonderful meals a day, set it up at their table or TV tray, and make certain they get everything they want or need. We bring the snack cart, every afternoon, to each room and offer them anything off the cart. We always give them something to look forward to.
What do you have on your Life Enrichment calendars lately? Any new innovations that have come from the stay-at-home conditions?
Justin: One of the extremely popular activities we have implemented is “virtual reality” (VR) headsets! The residents are eating it up. It allows them to escape reality, even if it’s for five or 10 minutes. Studies have shown that VR can help reduce stress, pain and anger. The great thing about VR is that you can create a personalized escape for each individual. We have some resident thrill seekers who enjoy a rollercoaster or a cage dive with sharks in the open water. Other residents just want to relax on the beach and hear the waves crash, looking up at the blue sky, hearing the birds chirp. We are even currently “traveling” the world through VR. Right now we're in France and just enjoyed standing right in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Lila: We have poker runs where we give two cards to everyone at breakfast, two cards at lunch, and one card at dinner. The resident with the winning hand gets a prize for that day.
Progressive Creative Activities
Lila: We are doing a progressive painting project where one person starts the painting and passes it on to the next resident who adds their artistic touch and down the line. We will auction off these Quarantine Paintings later this year during a family open house to celebrate the end of stay-at-home.
We are also doing a progressive story class. I bring a story starter to the first resident on the hallway. They add a paragraph, and then we pass the story on down the line. We have not finished our story yet – it might be a book! – but I can’t wait to share the finished product with everyone.
Lila: We have done some sidewalk chalk art where associates have painted on the sidewalks, around the building, so the residents can view the work from their apartments. They wave at us and give us thumbs up. We do farm scenes, campfire scenes, mountain scenes, airplanes and cars. We're in a secure place and properly separated, but it gives us a chance for sunshine and fresh air.
Lila and Justin agree that one thing we have going for us is that you cannot quarantine the human spirit. The need for human connection transcends physical confinement. Even beyond the individual need, residences long for connection, one to the other:
Justin: This makes our monthly virtual visits to different countries even richer with importance and possibility. All Legend residences “travel̦” to the same country. This year, we've been to China, Italy, Ireland and France. Then it's on to Mexico, Tahiti, Russia, Australia until we've circled the world.
Lila: One cultural door we can always open is food from every culture, which shows up on the Legend Gold Leaf Dining menu. Now that outside speakers are restricted, we draw on our own experiences more.
Legend LE directors stress that technology and social media play more of a role, and the current constraints can convince hold-backs that it may be a perfect time to learn some smartphone and computer skills. It's always easier than they think. And the Legend Associates are always there to help.
We may not know what moved the ancient peoples to paint on cave walls or to carve statues of people, or to erect fantastic structures like the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, but we're glad they did. Seeing these things and visiting these places, even virtual visits, give us a sense of history, a connection to the idea that people have come before and will come after who are very different from us, but who share our emotions, our spirituality, and our love of the stories that remind us who we are – and that we're never alone.