Broward County student makes COVID-19 pandemic more “bearable” for assisted living residents
High school student, Styler Haines, surprises elderly residents with stuffed bears during COVID-19 isolation.
The residents of Five Star Premier Residences of Pompano Beach were surprised with a heartfelt gift from a Broward County high school student, giving them comfort amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Skyler Haines, a 16-year-old student at Fort Lauderdale High School, spent the past month creating tiny masks and attaching them to 50 teddy bears, before delivering them to the senior assisted living facility. It is her way of helping residents better cope with the social isolation required to prevent the spread of the virus.
Premier holds a special place in the hearts of Haines and her family, as her late grandfather, Eugene W. Gross, lived at the assisted living facility until he passed away in October 2018. After Haines’ grandmother, Terry Gross, passed away unexpectedly in October 2015, her grandfather was left without his primary caregiver, and was moved to the facility to be close to his family and receive the help he needed to properly manage his dementia. The transition proved difficult as he struggled to adjust to unfamiliar surroundings. His family sought to make him more comfortable in his new life, and as Haines recalls, “what brought him comfort and joy were our frequent visits, daily scheduled activities, and time spent in Premier’s dining room, where we could enjoy some great meals together.”
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the elderly are at highest risk of contracting the virus, so assisted living facilities across the country have taken precautionary measures. These safeguards have not only meant social isolation for elderly residents, but also extreme changes to their daily routines. Residents must stay in their rooms and there are no family visits, entertainment, recreational or group activities with other residents. These changes can be especially difficult for those with cognitive decline from Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. According to Kate Keith Badeau, director of care consultation for the Alzheimer’s Association of Western New York, “routines help people create structure to the day, and doing the rhythmic of day-to-day (activities) helps those who are struggling to put all the pieces together.”
Haines still feels a personal connection to the residents, and from her experience with her grandfather, she knew that being isolated from family could really take its toll emotionally. “The residents were always so much fun to be around, and I knew since I could not go there to visit with them, the least I could do was give them something soft and comforting that could bring a smile to their faces,” Haines shared.
Tasha Bowen, Lifestyle 360 Program Associate at Premier Five Star said, “This was an incredible act of kindness from Skyler. The residents were so appreciative that this young lady was thinking about their well-being and took the time to make these adorable little bears for them. You could see it in their eyes the joy those bears brought to the residents.”
Haines added, “This is something simple anyone can do to help brighten the day of seniors who are more isolated than ever. I hope my masked bear project inspires others to take action and do something similar for the residents of an assisted living facility near them. Whether they do the same project I did or create something unique in their own way. I hope this can start a movement.”