Care facility seeks carved pumpkin donations to cheer up residents

·2 min read

Staff at a long-term care facility in northwest Calgary are hoping residents will get to enjoy the Halloween spirit with a walk through their very own donated pumpkin patch.

Any other year, staff and residents at Carewest Colonel Belcher would celebrate the season by carving pumpkins as a group activity, according to Janene Andrews, a recreation therapist at the facility.

However, safety guidelines to protect residents from COVID-19 will also prevent pumpkin-carving from going forward this October — for instance, due to infection prevention control, shared items are prohibited at the facility.

With about 170 residents, Colonel Belcher couldn't budget time or resources to routinely sanitize carving tools and provide individual pumpkins for everyone.

Instead, staff are asking Calgarians to drop off carved pumpkins so they can create a pumpkin patch, and take residents for walks outside to admire it.

"COVID has given us a lot of guidelines that we have to follow in place to keep our residents safe," Andrews said on the Calgary Eyeopener on Monday.

"So, we're trying to find new ways to [orient] our residents to time of year, to bring them joy, to bring them some familiarity, some normalcy — things like that."

Cheerful pumpkins requested

The planned location for the pumpkin patch is the facility's front patio, which features picnic tables and flowers in the summer.

Those interested in contributing are invited to drop off their carved pumpkins at the Colonel Belcher from Monday until Thursday, Andrews said.

"We're hoping to get enough pumpkins to put around that area to make it feel festive," Andrews said.

Signs have been posted so donors will know where to leave their carved works of art, and contingency plans have been made in case there is a high volume of donations.

"If we end up having more pumpkins than what we can accommodate on our front patio, we do have other areas we can move them to as well, just to fill it up and make our pumpkin patch grow and explore more of our areas," Andrews said.

"We're hoping that we have quite a few."

The only guideline, she said, is to ensure the carvings are cheerful.

In addition to helping residents feel rooted in time and place, the goal of the initiative is to spread some happiness.

"I feel that this will bring them joy. It'll bring them meaning. It'll also bring them some normalcy for our residents," Andrews said.

"It will give residents something to talk about with their family and friends … it'll help us encourage them to get them outside, to get some fresh air — especially with this week, it looks like it's supposed to be nice. And these are all great benefits."

The Carewest Colonel Belcher is located at 1939 Veterans Way N.W., and is accepting carved pumpkins until Oct. 29. No appointment is necessary to drop off a pumpkin.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.