Picture It. Boonsboro 2021. You are walking down the hallway during another busy day at work. It’s pretty close to the holidays so the excitement is palpable and the exhaustion is very, very real. You turn a corner and stop dead in your tracks. You think you’re seeing things. You hope you’re seeing things. If you’re not seeing things, then you are fairly certain you are living your own personal nightmare. You see, once you turned that corner, you’ve now come face to face with THIS:
You want to scream in hopes that you can scare away horror movie Bambi, forcing it to leave only the candy basket. But then, you hear a familiar laugh and as your heartrate begins to lower, you realize it’s not a holiday hallucination or something in the Christmas cookies. It’s just the Activities Director trying to make an ordinary day feel extraordinary! And it works! Now, you instantly feel better…
When you first start a position, your supervisor will most likely give you a large packet of information. Paperwork from Human Resources, a copy of the attendance policy, FAQ’s about insurance, where the good snacks are kept, everything you need to know when starting a new job. Included in your packet is most likely a job description, a list of duties and responsibilities that you must adhere to in order to be a successful employee. While everyone’s job description is fairly standard, the one for the Activities Department might be slightly different. You may find things like “throw a birthday party for a resident when they can’t celebrate with their family” or “bake 200 pineapple treats in honor of National Pineapple Day”. Or dress up like this and pretend it’s totally normal:
Sometimes the duties are easy, like transporting residents back and forth. Other times, they can be hard, like trying to come up with the perfect craft for everyone to enjoy. There are days when the duties can be emotionally taxing, like having a one-on-one with a resident who’s husband has just died and is trying to keep it together. There are other days when it can be glamorous, like getting to do hair and nails on the ladies. However, most days, it’s just plain fun:
Let’s face it. Life is hard. It can be exponentially harder in a pandemic. Much like a box of chocolates, you never quite know what each day has in store. Our residents need a reason to smile, to keep their spirits up, to have hope for a brighter tomorrow. That is the magic of the Activities Department. They can take you on an island adventure with a YouTube video of Hawaii, let you smash a pie in their faces if it means getting a laugh, and face challenges head on, like when they have 50 plus Bingo competitors and only one snack cake. (And if they run out of potato chips or stuffed animals, they’re better off taking their chances with horror movie Bambi). They do it all so our residents can have a reason to smile. And after all, like Olympia Dukakis once said in the movie Steel Magnolias, “the older you get, the sillier you get”.
Every week, we will be highlighting a member of the Fahrney Keedy Family to learn a little bit more about their life and career. They will be offering a unique perspective on their role as well as advice for those considering a career in senior living.
This week, we get a snapshot into the life and career of Shannon Kelbaugh, Director of Activities.
Where did you go to school? What was your major? “I went to Hagerstown Community College. I majored in education and received my Associate’s of Science in Early Education.”
Do you have any other certifications? “I’m a Certified Nursing/Geriatric Assistant, also from HCC.”
When did you know you wanted to work in Activities? What drew you to your current position? “I didn’t know that an Activity Aide was a job! And I didn’t know what I was getting into until I started working as an Activity Aide! What I love about the Activities Department is the chance to make people feel good, to bring smiles and laughter to people, and in some instances, comfort during a really difficult time. My husband says I am always taking care of others and that there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do to make people feel better. So, the Activities Department is a perfect match for me.”
What brought you to Fahrney Keedy? “Becky Musser, the Director of Community Engagement, messaged me one day and said she knew the perfect job for me! She told me to go on the Fahrney Keedy website and put in an application for an Activities Aide. She told me to trust her, that this was right up my alley. So I did, and here I am!”
In honor of #tbt, we want to throw it back to your first day at Fahrney Keedy. What do you remember? “Doing noodle hockey in the auditorium and having the stuffing beaten out of me by the residents. Just a bit of advice: be careful around the elderly if you give them a pool noodle. If I had to describe it I would say BEST FIRST DAY OF WORK EVER! I had so much fun and I was laughing, residents were laughing, and co-workers were laughing. Who wouldn’t want my job?”
What does a day in the life look like for you? What are your duties and responsibilities? “Well, that is hard to answer. I always come to work with a plan, but normally, after clocking in, that plan has changed. As the Activities Director, I spend more time behind a desk than I can stand. As an Activity Aide, we are on the floor doing activities with the residents, 1:1 visits, charting, planning upcoming activities, or helping other departments if needed. The one thing about Fahrney Keedy that I love is that we are a team. Everyone helps everyone!”
Do you have a favorite memory from your time spent working here that you would be willing to share? “I have so many, but one that sticks out is when Washington County Technical High School helped us put on a Senior Prom. It was wonderful. The cosmetology students did hair and make-up, the photography students took pictures, and the nursing students helped with getting the residents ready. There was music, food, refreshments, and dancing and it was great. The residents had so much fun and so did the staff. I remember taking one resident in their wheelchair and dancing with them. You could have been blinded by their smiles.”
This pandemic has been hard for everyone but especially for those individuals working in healthcare. How did you personally get through it? “God. I had to put all my faith and trust in Him to help me get through everything. I would start everyday with a prayer for strength and guidance for myself and my co-workers. I don’t think we would have been able to do what needed to be done were it not for His strength.”
Oscar Wilde once said “with age comes wisdom”. What advice would you give to your younger self? “I would tell her to use exercise as a stress relief instead of baking! I have gone up 2 pant sizes since the pandemic.”
What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming an Activities Director? “You need to be a multi-tasking ninja with the ability to see the comedy in the day to day chaos that will inevitably land in your lap to wrangle into some type of order. This has never been truer than it has been in the last year and a half. I would also say that you should start at the bottom and work your way up. Yes, you can go and get a certificate that says you went to school and have a piece of paper that says you are qualified to be an Activities Director, but you can make a better program if you have first-hand knowledge of the difference you make and the work involved to make a great activity program”
And, last question, Why should someone choose to join the Fahrney Keedy team? “I don’t know if I speak for everyone, but I work at Fahrney Keedy because of the feeling of family. I love the bonds I make with the residents and their families, the friendships I have with the staff, and we all support each other and work as a team.”
We asked Shannon 5 rapid fire questions to get to know her a little better:
Favorite Color: Hot Pink
Favorite Movie: Steel Magnolias
Favorite Disney Character: Donald Duck
Favorite Superhero: Doesn’t have one. Her favorite Superhero movie is Aqua Man (Jason Momoa = best movie ever! – Shannon)
Favorite Actor Age 65+: Tom Hanks
1 Fun Fact: Shannon did the bungie swing at King’s Dominion amusement park on a dare for her 21st birthday. She did it once, screamed and cried, and will never do it again but she can still say that she did it!
Thank you so much to Shannon Kelbaugh for sharing! Stay tuned next week when we add!