Buddy Program Builds New and Lasting Friendships
By Michael E. McRae
President & CEO, St. Ann’s Community
May 20, 2020
“My heart is so happy.”
That’s the reaction one St. Ann’s Home resident had when her “buddy” (a staff member, wearing protective garb) arrived recently for a friendly visit.
Our Buddy Program pairs residents with non-medical staff members for companionship and online communication with their families. We launched the program in March when the Department of Health required us to close our buildings to visitors. It’s just one of the ways we’re continuing to keep St. Ann’s Home “full of life” during this difficult time.
Staff from every department have stepped up to volunteer. They spend time each week—most often multiple times a week—with their assigned residents, sharing conversation, watching a favorite TV show, or making calls via Skype so residents can see and talk with their families. It’s a way of easing the isolation that our residents, like many elders, are experiencing right now. And it’s created new and lasting friendships. As one staffer put it, “Even when this (coronavirus situation) is over, I know I’m going to continue visiting my resident buddies.”
The caring spirit of the Buddy Program extends to the greater community as well. Through the support of generous donors, St. Ann’s Foundation was able to purchase tablets for staff to use to help their residents connect digitally with their families. Such digital visits go a long way toward easing the heartache of isolation. Donors have also enabled us to establish a “Buddy Budget” for each resident at our Cafe Rizzo; staff can use the money to purchase treats and other items for their residents and have them delivered right to their door.
We are all missing some of the comforts we’ve come to rely in life, especially the comfort of having family beside us. St. Ann’s Home residents, however, can be sure that they will always have a buddy close by to rely on.