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Certified Facilitator Spotlight: Teresa Hunt

Mar 12, 2021

Virtual Engagement During Covid

In January 2018, the TimeSlips program started at Jackson District library through a grant specifically for outreach programming with people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. By April, the program was already growing as word spread throughout the care home community. Many activity directors wanted TimeSlips in their facility. Fortunately, in June, my schedule allowed me to be trained as a facilitator and I was able to start a new group in August. Again, as interest grew, there was a need to expand services. Jackson District Library, seeing the positive impact the program was having and the need in the community, increased my hours specifically dedicated to the TimeSlips program. Within a few months, I was leading three groups in two care facilities. And, just before the shut-down in March 2020, I was to start a new group in a third care home.   

The Jackson District Library reopened in mid-July 2020 with very limited services being offered to the public, including no outreach. Programming that could be done virtually was started up again in November. The care facility I had been at since August 2018 was interested in trying virtual TimeSlips and we started meeting through Zoom. The residents who participate adapted to the new technology and way of doing things easily. Once a week, the residents and I get to be together to visit and engage in conversation through pictures. They look at the finer details, many times surprising me with what they come up with for their stories. When residents aren’t quarantined in their rooms, they get together in the activity room (wearing masks and social distancing) which allows them to share their ideas and participate as a group. Some days, for various reasons, residents have to stay in their rooms. When that’s the case, a staff person will go from room to room with the iPad so that the residents still get a chance to interact with me and create a story. It’s not as fun for them, but it does give them individual attention and it still gives them a chance to engage with someone not in the facility.       

The residents and I have found that communication is more difficult in virtual sessions than it was in-person. Sometimes we struggle to hear each other, but the activities staff person is usually a great translator and we always manage to somehow understand one another in the end. The residents also get frustrated sometimes about not being able to see me very well and reading my facial expression. However, we can still joke with each other and hear the cheerfulness in our voices even if we can’t see each other’s faces. 

Engaging virtually brings joy to all of us. We look forward to seeing each other, strengthening the special bond we had before Covid hit. The participants feel that their opinions and thoughts matter, that someone is listening to them. They feel it’s beneficial and meaningful to their day.

Even though we haven’t seen each in person since last March, we have found a way to keep a personal connection. We have learned to be flexible – the screen freezing, audio on, muffled sound quality, video camera on, volume adjustment, etc. It’s all part of the way we meet now.

As soon as care facilities open back up and allow visitors and the Jackson District Library outreach programming begins again, the residents and I will be able to engage in person. We are all looking forward to that day!

 

Teresa Hunt is a Library Assistant at the Jackson District Library (JDL), where she helps patrons in selecting material, placing holds and checking out.  She assists with outreach programming, virtually and in-person for all ages. She is responsible for bulletin board and book displays for all interests and themes. As part of JDL's Project Bridge (Building Relationships In Diverse Generational Experiences) which caters to the growing senior population in Jackson County, as well as patrons with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, Teresa became a TimeSlips Certified Facilitator in 2018. As a part of this, Teresa engaged elders in creative story-telling using Beautiful Questions, Gentle Conversations and pictures. She was on the panel to introduce the new TimeSlips Engagement Parties, speaking of her experiences using TimeSlips as part of her position at the library. She trains other library staff on holding virtual TimeSlips meetings using the Zoom platform.

Teresa’s interest in being involved with the Project Bridge program stemmed from experiencing her father’s slow decline from Alzheimer’s disease.  He was diagnosed at age 70 and passed away when he was 74.  Teresa, along with her mom and sisters assisted in his care as he progressively lost his memory and some of his mobility.