Today “Pink Bunny” bounces into my aunt’s room and hands her a fizzy pink “cocktail” (ginger ale with vanilla ice cream) to drink, while his assistant snaps a picture of Aunt Jo for the facility’s Facebook page.
On Monday, the activities director at the privately-owned and operated facility where my aunt lives appeared as “Big Penguin.” She laughed when he handed her a two-inch plastic replica of his penguin self. “What am I going to do with this?” my aunt asked him. She laughed and threw back the toy. At least she was not startled. My aunt’s roommate, who stays in bed all day behind a closed door, screamed when “Big Penguin” waddled unannounced into her room.
Most of the time, the activities director’s impressively creative, and inexhaustible, efforts to entertain residents leaves behind a trail of happy laughs. Until March 2020, when the Covid-19 virus began to spread and long-term care (LTC) facilities locked their doors to all visitors, volunteers, and vendors except essential medical personnel, residents had their choice of daily group activities.
That immediately took the air out of the activities director’s plans but sent his alter ego into overdrive. Residents cannot gather face-to-face, or elbow-to-elbow as they once did, but Pink Bunny” or “Big Penguin”—or whatever character the activities director decides to be today—brings the show to them. In between his performances, the small staff races up and down three flights of stairs to connect with each resident, in person, at least once a day, to offer a book, a puzzle, or a manicure, my aunt’s preferred choice.
“We have extra,” enthuses “Pink Bunny,” bowing and extending a cocktail to me before he turns and hops away. I take the drink and turn to my aunt, who raises her glass and laughs.
How do the activities offered at your loved one’s LTC facility compare with “Pink Bunny’s? And what creative extras have you added to help counter your loved one’s social isolation during Covid-19? I created a slideshow of photographs from my aunt’s life and uploaded to them to a digital photo frame that runs 24/7 in her room and helps trigger her memory.