Are You Ready to Pay It Forward?

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Joan Devine
Director of Education, Pioneer Network

Though it seems like ages ago, it was only a little over a year ago that most of us came to the realization that what we were facing with the pandemic was not going to go away any time soon. And so, we began to hunker in for the long haul.

For care communities, this meant learning all they could about COVID, and determining how to keep residents and staff safe as they tried, on a daily basis, to stay on top of the latest rules, regulations and best practices. It also meant that while locking down their communities from families and others in “the outside world” and maintaining social distancing inside, they also knew they needed to prevent the loneliness and isolation that was as great a threat to the residents as was COVID.

At Pioneer Network, our role in all of this, how we needed to pivot, wasn’t as clear. Yes, we knew we needed to cancel our in-person conference, and whatever we did needed to be virtual, but just how could we help? It was recommended that perhaps we needed to do a series of webinars on how to create a person-centered culture, but to be honest, it seemed to us that those organizations who understood the value already had person-centered practices in place and would in fact benefit from it during the coming months, and for those who “didn’t get it” yet, the timing didn’t feel right. In the midst of a crisis is not the best time to convince someone they needed a whole new approach.

So – what could we do? The answer as many of you are aware, was to gather resources that would support quality of life for residents and staff and find a way to have them easily available to communities, who were busy doing the day-to-day work. The result was The ABCs of Combatting Isolation. This was to be a special section in our Resource Library, and we set out collecting resources to populate it.

Time wasn’t the only resource that was scarce, as communities spent significant funds on PPE, staffing and to meet other priorities related to managing the pandemic. So not only were we looking for great ideas to support engagement, but the resources needed to be free.

What we found was incredible, but not surprising. People who work in this field have very generous hearts! As everything shut down, the very people and organizations we were reaching out to for help in providing free resources were themselves hurting. Businesses were uncertain about their futures, and consultants were among those being kept out as communities locked down, and for many, their income went away overnight. And yet, they generously not only shared resources, but created new ones. People like Mary Sue Wilkinson, Singing Heart to Heart; Susan Ostrowski, Reading2Connect;

Carmen Bowman, Edu-Catering; Susan Hebbel, THE BRIDGE; Diane Hall, BSNSolutions; Jim Arnold, Folklore Music; Karen Stobbe, In The Moment; Deb Skovron, Circle Talk; Celeste Green, Celeste Green Laughs, Hanna Doreen Brown, Sounds Affects Music, and Jennifer Brush, Brush Development.

And there were those organizations that you may know from the exhibit hall at past conferences, that also opened up their hearts and pulled out the stops creating resources that were not only for their customers, but for all providers. Companies and organizations like Action Pact, Age-U-Cate, Eversound, Health Professions Press, iN2L, Java Music Group, Kansas State University Center on Aging, LinkedSenior, Meaningful Care Matters, Memory Well, Music & Memory, National Association of Activity Professionals (NAAP), National Certification Council for Activity Professionals (NCCAP), Planetree International, Preferences for Everyday Living (PELI), Sage Advocacy & resources for LGBT Elders, Scripps Opening Minds through Arts (OMA), Senior Dining Associates, The Beryl Institute, The Eden Alternative, The Hummingbird Project, The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-term Care, Timeslips, Total Brain Health, Touchtown, and Validation Training Institute.

And a shout out to all the very creative individual Life Enrichment professionals, of which there are too many to mention, who shared their ideas so that residents across the country, and around the world, could benefit.

The tough times are not over, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. The ABCs of Combatting Isolation resources have now been integrated into the Engagement Section of the newly updated Tools and Resources Section of the Pioneer Network website.

As we emerge from these tough times, let’s not forget all those who were so generous when we needed them most. A lesson I hope we have all learned this past year is how valuable connection is and for those we serve, whether residents or staff, how important meaning and purpose are to our well-being. And so, when there is an opportunity to invest in your life enrichment program, please consider those who were there for you when you needed them, and perhaps you can pay it forward!

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