If a building had a heart, and you were looking for the heart of Royal Park Place, you’d likely find it beating strongly at whatever life-enriching activity Paula St. Amant is leading at that moment. With 24 years of service, Paula calls Royal Park Place “my home,” but she is also the first to say that she’s just one of many staff there who feels that way.
“The employees make this place special,” she says. “We have people who have been here 30 years. It’s more ‘family’ than ‘employment.’ You can tell that every single person cares.”
That’s why it was so difficult for her when the life enrichment program changed drastically during the pandemic. “It physically hurt me to be away from the residents,” she says. “We would only see each other for short periods of time, behind our masks.”
Paula orchestrated hallway bingo and tried to find other ways to help fill her residents’ days, but she also picked up and helped in other ways. “Whatever they needed, I did it. I delivered meals, or I would act as a caregiver at Royal Atrium Inn,” she says. “Everyone here pitched in and helped. It didn’t matter what your job title was.”
And perhaps no one was as excited as Paula when life enrichment resumed at Royal Park Place earlier this year. “I called my daughter and I was squealing with joy,” she says. “I was so happy. And I was thrilled for the residents because the social activities—that’s so much of what people love here. I wanted them to have it again.”
Paula was also excited to re-start the Welcome Wagon, which had been dormant during the pandemic. Upon move-in, Paula meets with each resident and interviews them to get a sense of what activities they enjoy, as well as their life story. She then pairs them with a neighbor who likes similar things, and that person makes sure the new resident feels welcome, is invited to activities, has someone to walk to meals with, and more. Paula also writes up a biography of each resident and sends it out to give people a chance to get to know one another. “It can be hard to start somewhere new from scratch, so I want them to know we’re all friends here.”
The Welcome Wagon is just one activity that Paula created for Royal Park Place. Other original activities include a children’s costume parade for residents, an annual family invitational fishing derby, an intergenerational pen pal group, and doughnut bingo. She has also instituted helpful services for the residents, including a partnership with a grocery store, a visit from a local bank for full services for residents, and on-campus help from vision support specialists. She says she gets many ideas just from talking to the residents.
"I want them to have fun."
And while Life Enrichment may not seem like a necessity, Paula says it’s vital. “These programs take an otherwise lonely person and help them socialize,” she says, thinking of some who may have recently lost a spouse, or who are not happy about moving. “I want them to laugh and have fun. I never give up on that for every single person, and they know it.”
It’s thanks to Paula and the rest of the team that the heart of Royal Park Place is still beating strongly, despite any challenges from the pandemic. “I look forward to coming to work every single day,” she says. “This is my mission. This is what I love. It’s family.”