Students help bring Valentine’s Day to those in assisted living

Published 12:28 am Saturday, February 12, 2022

Residents in area assisted living facilities are having an extra colorful Valentine’s Day this year, thanks to a project with a home health care agency and a lot of help from local kindergarten students.

“I serve a lot of the assisted living facilities, and we try to plan community classrooms or activities,” said Mandi Hill, account executive with Angels Care Home Health. “But due to COVID, some of the activities are very limited, and some can’t have any at all. Activity directors are having to go in and entertain each room.”

So Hill met with an activity director and, later, members of her company decided to have a coloring contest.

Students in area elementary schools judged the coloring pages. (Monique Batson/The News)

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But it was one unlike the others.

“I’m new at this so I’m trying to put a different twist on things,” she said.

Residents in assisted living facilities colored Valentine’s Day pages, while kindergarten students judged them.

But what started as a project in one district has now spread to students in Port Neches, Groves, Port Arthur, Orange and Beaumont.

“It’s been a big ordeal,” Hill said. “Just to see where the kids’ minds go, and what they think would be first place… I just want to have fun. People don’t realize these elderly people, they’re so lonely.”

During one visit, Hill saw her long-time school attendance clerk. On another, she saw a nurse she once worked closely with.

“They’re all important people within your community that don’t have family and they’re so lonely,” she said. “It’s so much fun just to go in there and sit and talk with them. It doesn’t matter what you bring them — a little thing of water and a breakfast bar — to sit and talk with them about.”

But some places, she said, are unable to have visitors due to the pandemic.

Assisted living facilities across the state shut doors to anyone from the outside when COVID-19 hit. And while many have been able to lighten restrictions, it’s a constant concern.

From the beginning of the pandemic to August 2021, more than 9,000 nursing home residents died from health issues related to COVID, according to numbers from Texas Health and Human Services.