Activity directors combat Covid by boosting resident morale

Lavonda CantrellGet Up & Go, Northeast Knox, South Knox, West Hills

Long-term care providers intentionally choose a career of passion and purpose, protecting an aging population, meeting physical, social and emotional needs, and providing a sense of security and safety.

The activity directors at Hillcrest Healthcare’s three communities at Beverly Park Place, Island Home and West Hills had to find an even higher gear starting last March when novel coronavirus changed how everyone works and lives.

Because of the commitment of those directors, residents have been able to enjoy drive-through parades where family and friends decorate their car and drive by honking and waving; hallway bingo; outdoor musical entertainment; and over-the-fence, 6-foot socially distanced visits for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

“We are so proud of how our recreational teams have risen to the occasion,” said Diana Fisher, director of business development at Hillcrest. “They have boosted spirits of both residents and staff and promoted an environment of well-being during this unprecedented time. As a long-term care professional, you never think you may be up against a global pandemic until it happens.”

Additional activities have included remote-control car races, karaoke in doorways and a cart filled with puzzles, books and snacks that is taken room to room.

“Everyone joined together for the primary goal of taking care of the residents,” Fisher said.

Don McCarty, maintenance director at Beverly Park Place, built a “food truck” for a fun and exciting way to deliver snacks, treats, flowers and more. A grant award allowed Hillcrest to buy 21 Apple iPads that were distributed throughout the three healthcare communities. The iPads are used daily for FaceTime and Skype calls with family members.

Long-term care communities are no stranger to logistical hurdles and regulatory challenges. When COVID-19 led to a shutdown in March, the battle against an invisible enemy began, creating the greatest challenge the long-term care community has encountered and is still fighting more than six months later. Guidelines from the Tennessee Department of Health, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and CDC came daily and fast.

As Hillcrest Healthcare plans to re-open its communities in October, the activity teams once again will take the lead to plan and implement small group activities with all appropriate safety protocols; coordinate and assist with family visits; and provide fun and engaging activities throughout our communities.

“The safety and well-being of our residents is our number one priority and our primary concern, and the one constant that never wavers for Hillcrest Healthcare,” Fisher said.

Lavonda Cantrell, LNHA, is director of marketing and special projects at Hillcrest Healthcare and vice president of the Hillcrest Healthcare Foundation.

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