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July 22, 2020

Rachel Schuckman, a 2016 JCCC graduate, loves her job as a lifestyles assistant at Santa Marta, an assisted living center in Olathe. Her goal is to consistently plan activities that enrich residents’ lives. The pandemic made her job quite challenging since group activities had to be canceled, but her creativity was not quashed.

Instead, Schuckman could be seen pushing an activities cart full of paper, markers, glue, scissors and snacks down the hallways of the facility. She and her co-workers adapted activities and became innovative to provide one-on-one projects in residents’ rooms instead of the common spaces used before the pandemic.

"My favorite part about my job is the genuine connections and relationships I have made with the residents, and the fact that I am able to share my interests with them,” Schuckman said. “I really like art and art history, and I’ve been able to share that with them through the different activities I facilitate."

This time has been difficult and many of the residents are facing depression due to social isolation and being unable to see their families. Because the elderly are more vulnerable to the virus, extra precautions have been taken to protect their health. No visitors are allowed unless it is an end-of-life situation. Communal dining and group gatherings are not permitted. Visitors can come to their family member's window but must stay behind the chalk line that has been painted 6 feet from the perimeter of the building.

"For me, the hardest thing is the uncertainty and the changes that happen every day, especially working in this type of field,” Schuckman said. “It’s been tough seeing how this has affected our residents. We all try to keep a positive outlook every day, but it can be difficult."