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Cardinals CARE Project connects students with long-term care residents

Dr. Elizabeth Long and BSSN student Makayla Brown of the Lamar University Dishman School of Nursing have organized a 10-week project called Cardinals CARE (Cardinals Adopt Residents for Engagement) with a two-fold mission.  The effort will connect residents in long-term care facilities with nursing students and provide nursing students with required community-based service learning hours prevented because of Stay Home, Stay Safe parameters.

Since late March 2020, no visitors or non-medical personnel have been allowed in long-term care facilities, and residents have been isolated in their rooms away from other residents.

“The pandemic has directly impacted those in long-term care as residents are currently unable to have visitors,” said Elizabeth Long, assistant professor of nursing and Community Based Service Learning Coordinator. “Loneliness and social isolation was an issue for many older adults prior to the pandemic, both in long term care and in the community. The pandemic has compounded the issue.”

More than 100 students will send mail to residents in 13 different long-term care facilties and 711 nursing home residents across the Golden Triangle.  Some students will be assigned up to 10 patients to send correspondence - letters, inspirational messages, artwork and more to brighten the patient’s day and keep them company in this time of social distancing. In order to maintain privacy, no resident’s name will be given. Facilities are assigning residents a number, which are then provided to the letter writers.

With the first contact, students are sending a self -addressed envelope.  Residents who would like to respond
Makayla Brown
back can share their name, and when restrictions are lifted, there will be an opportunity for face-to-face meetings.

“I wanted to make an impact on our community and be able to show others what it means to simply care for those who need it most,” said Makayla Brown, project coordinator. “As future nurses, we are born with the desire to care for others, and I think this is a great way to show that we care despite the social distancing regulations.”

As project coordinator, Brown recruits students who want to mail letters to residents and assigns them to long-term care facilities. While also mailing eight letters to nursing home residents per week, Brown stays up-to-date on the number of residents at the facilities in hopes that no resident is left out.

“I believe this project is impacting me just as much as it’s impacting the residents,” said Brown. “Hopefully, at the end of this project we will be able to meet our residents in person and continue our friendship for a lifetime.”

For more information on Cardinals CARE, contact Dr. Elizabeth Long at elong@lamar.edu or Makayla Brown at mbrown63@lamar.edu.