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Unsung “life” heroes stepped up their game

This past year has been a challenge for so many of us due to lockdowns, shortages, health struggles and much loss for so many. Here at FOURMIDABLE, we couldn’t have gotten through this pandemic without our dedicated “life” heroes: those onsite Managers, Activity Directors, and hard-working Service Coordinators.

These women and men have tirelessly devoted themselves to their senior communities, setting an outstanding example of what dedicated professionals look like.

What do they do?

The simple answer is everything – everything to help their older residents. So many of our communities were locked down and forced to isolate their residents, leaving them unable to embrace or even see their families. And hosting events or activities proved nearly impossible.

But without fail, our staff turned up the effort, finding unique and fun ways to fill the lives of residents with something other than worry or concern over a virus. They had to reconfigure policies and deal with unique challenges, even as they faced the same health concerns we all did.

Activities Directors typically plan lots of activities and events in communities with older residents, celebrating holidays or special occasions, hosting bingo or game nights, taking people on outings and giving residents something fun and entertaining to experience.

Service Coordinators, at HUD communities, typically work with the elderly and persons with disabilities and play a critical role to support a platform for financial and physical security, social connections and the delivery of supportive services. With the pandemic, these Coordinators had to reach out to multiple services to fill in those gaps that they would never of thought they would have had to do.

How things changed

The biggest change was finding ways to keep families connected. This has been the era of remote visits through Zoom, of pulling together window visits and doing everything to keep isolated seniors active mentally and physically. Let me tell, they did a great job providing emotional support when personal contact was out of the question.

Being creative requires much thought, but also lots of work. They rolled up their sleeves and kept at it for month after month, always willing to serve and help.

While field trips and outdoor activities were limited, creative ways to offer forms of physical activity, like in-chair exercise classes or hallway kickball were the order of the day. Creativity also led to in-person performances with musicians or singers outside serenading the residents who watched from windows or balconies.

Families, and local service groups or charities, helped for sure, hosting automobile “parades” for special occasions, or even just to break up the day. Another great idea was to get outside volunteers to send residents simple greeting cards.

In one community where “happy hour” was halted, the staff implemented a “Happy Hour Cart” where they took a cart loaded with various beverages to the residents’ door.

Finding other ways to help

Even as we look back at the many ways our Activity Directors and Service Coordinators were able to continue playing a vital role in their communities, I am reminded that there are plenty of cool ways these individuals help.

Staff work with third-party providers and vendors to deliver elements that can’t be produced in-house, create and share goodie bags or bring in performers to provide some joy during lonely times.

They also help residents apply for different programs, stay up-to-date on what’s going on in the community and even teach them how to use things like Zoom or Facetime.

Just as important as what they do for a resident’s mental health, staff heroes also assist in ensuring everyone has access to PPE, medicine, food and household supplies, working as well with the medical community for testing and possible vaccinations.

In the end, the value of team on the front lines, cannot be understated. When family was cut off from family, when communities were locked down or isolated, these individuals stepped up and became family and friends to residents. And heroes to us.

My thanks to each and every one of you.