ARICHAT: In an attempt to keep things fun during the holidays, the staff at St. Ann Community and Nursing Care Centre in Arichat has been thinking outside the box.

Three weeks ago, administrator Lynn LeBlanc said a Continuing Care Assistant, who was a former Tim Hortons employee, pitched an idea for a fun activity.

“She thought, ‘why don’t we do a little drive-thru,’” LeBlanc recalled. “She had the uniform, Olivia helped construct the drive-thru, just out of cardboard, painted.”

Director of care, Olivia Boudreau, helped write a letter to Tim Hortons to make the idea a reality.

“It just kind of explained to them we’ve been in lock-down for this long, it would be really nice if we could,” LeBlanc recalled. “This was when Dr. Strang said we can’t go out in the community, so how can we bring something in safely?”

Tim Hortons replied by donating coffee, cups, doughnuts, and staff put together taxis.

“The residents thought it was fantastic,” LeBlanc reported. “It was something different, they got coffee, had a nice treat. It was really fun, and just went off.”

After the event, staff posted pictures on Facebook, which attracted over 200,000 views and were shared more than 800 times.

“It went viral,” LeBlanc said. “We created a Facebook page, mainly so that families could see, this is what’s happening on the inside because they’re not allowed in. It got shared over and over, and on Friday it was posted, and on Monday, C100 in Halifax had it on their radio station. We were on Live at 5 and some places in Sydney.”

Not just to help residents, LeBlanc pointed out such events are great for staff, and create positive word of mouth.

“It’s been a real morale booster for the staff. They’ve been given a lot of credit for trying to make things fun for them. It’s really fun and it’s created a little competition, like what are we going to do next?” she noted. “It’s been really positive and I think other places have been saying, ‘you know it would be really nice to work there.’ So it’s also been almost really great PR for us as well because we do great things, and sometimes we tend to forget that it’s nice to share those things so people know all the great things we do.”

Boudreau agreed, noting that their activities have attracted attention from other facilities.

“Other nursing homes are commenting on it, ‘oh wow, look what they did, we have to top that,’ so it’s created competition almost among nursing homes to do stuff for their residents too,” she remarked.

These ideas come at a time when public health restrictions mandated no indoor visits for long-term care residents.

“We have lots of things planned for them, lots of different activities, and we’ll be sharing that on Facebook so families can know. It’s been hard, it’s been really hard. It’s not easy,” LeBlanc said. “For us, we’re out in the community, we get to go home, we get to do things, but they’ve really been in here for nine months or so, and it’s been really hard.”

Another activity includes writing letters to Canadian Forces members unable to be home for Christmas, as well as a Christmas ice cream party.

“We’re trying to fill up almost every day leading up to Christmas with something, even if it’s not a big thing, a little thing to pass the time,” Boudreau stated.

Even without COVID-19, this can still be a challenging time of year for residents, LeBlanc added.

“Especially this time of year, so this will bring some joy to them,” she added. “Because we can’t have families in at this time, so it’s extremely difficult, so we’re trying to come up with ways that we can make things fun, keep things active.”