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'COVID buddies’ are cuddly companions for assisted living, health care residents

Alyssa Colter had an excess inventory of stuffed animals.

One resident’s generous relative had donated 47 teddy bears and other fluffy friends, which the life enrichment director once planned to use as prizes for winners of blackout bingo games.

But during a pandemic, residents aren’t gathering to play games. What they are missing, Alyssa realized, is the comfort of touch.

“I’ve had a family member or two who has gone through radiation or chemo, and they always got what we called a ‘chemo buddy,’ which was a stuffed animal,” Alyssa said. “I thought that during this rough time, it might be nice for them to have what I’ve been calling a ‘COVID buddy.’

“It’s a stuffed animal that they can touch and hug, because those are important things they’re missing right now.”

The activity team made tags to attach to each plush creature. They read:

Coronavirus is rough, but we are plenty tough.

We can be one and the same, I just need a name.

“When we present them to the residents, we thought it would be a fun one-on-one activity to help them come up with the name and write it on the tag,” Alyssa explained.

The COVID buddies were distributed to all of the residents living in the health care and assisted living areas. Alyssa said she hoped to have some left over for independent living residents as well.

“It was so awesome for this family member to donate all of these stuffed animals, and the whole team rallied to think outside the box about how we could use them,” she said.

Alyssa has worked at Presbyterian Manor for more than eight years. She began as a certified nursing assistant and joined the life enrichment staff over the summer.

She’s enjoying her new role so far.

“I’ve always loved connecting with the residents and hearing their stories,” Alyssa said. “Now I get to do it in such a different and fun way.”

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