- Written by Janis Merrell
- Published: January 8, 2021
2020 was a very difficult year for nursing home and rest home residents. COVID-19 hit this community of vulnerable individuals particularly hard. That’s why Trevor Boeding, MPH, Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program Director at LifePath, decided to bring joy to as many residents as possible by collecting cards for people living in one of the seven nursing homes and rest homes in the LifePath service area. Cards could be handmade or store-bought, had to be gender neutral, and could not refer to any religious holiday.
According to Boeding, “Residents [at long-term care facilities] have experienced disproportionate burdens of disruption, illness, and death related to COVID-19. Stringent visitation curtailment has led to increased levels of social isolation and physical estrangement from family, friends, and loved ones. In addition, many residents have experienced a great deal of upheaval in their physical surroundings and changes in staffing and routines.”
“I hope that residents get the sense that there are many people in the community who are thinking of them and sending them well-wishes and support.”
Due to the Commonwealth's visitation restrictions, the Ombudsman program has not been able to visit with residents in person on a weekly basis. The program was able to successfully shift to connecting with residents virtually, but this type of connection has posed difficulties and has its own shortcomings.
Boeding was inspired to create the card shower project by a meme his wife sent him that encouraged focusing on love instead of focusing on worry, self-doubt, guilt, and anxiety. “Several hours after I looked at the meme, it just came to me—focus on love. I asked myself how to convey this message of love to residents, and the idea of showering them with cards came to me,” Boeding explained.
People could mail the cards to Boeding, or drop them off at a card donation box left outside LifePath’s offices. According to Boeding, the outpouring of support was “amazing,” with a final tally of 427 cards and 100 hand-folded origami cranes which, according to the website JapaneseSalon.nl, represent good fortune and longevity in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean culture.
Cards were contributed by LifePath staff and volunteers, and by the community at large. While most of the support came from the Western Massachusetts area, cards were received from across the Commonwealth and from as far away as Oregon. Gill Elementary School submitted a number of handmade cards created by students. The Erving Senior Center contributed close to 50 cards.
Enough cards and origami cranes were received for almost each and every resident living in a long-term care facility in the LifePath service area. Cards and cranes were delivered by Wednesday, December 23, to social work and activities staff for distribution at Applewood Home for Elders and Quabbin Valley Healthcare in Athol, Farren Care Center in Turners Falls, and LaBelle's Rest Home in Shelburne Falls. In Greenfield, Charlene Manor Extended Care Facility, Buckley Healthcare Center, and Poet's Seat Health Care Center received cards.
“The Ombudsman program at LifePath sends a great big ‘Thank you!’ to each and every one who contributed to this effort: LifePath senior management, staff and volunteers, community members, and the staff at the local long-term care facilities who facilitated the distribution of the cards and cranes,” said Boeding.
“I hope that the card shower brought some light and hope into the lives of the residents who received them. I hope that residents get the sense that there are many people in the community who are thinking of them and sending them well-wishes and support. I hope the cards also serve as a reminder that, although their Ombudsman has not been allowed to make weekly visits, the program at LifePath is very much alive and well. The card shower may remind residents that the Ombudsman program still cares about the quality of their care and the quality of their lives and is still very much available for advocacy with regard to specific concerns.”