Sky Mougin, Memory Care Lifestyles Coordinator at Halcyon House in Washington, Iowa, knew it wasn't just her imagination; she had begun noticing something strange.
"I would watch residents going out for doctors' appointments, and some wouldn't wear their hats," she says. "I don't know if they didn't like the way the hats felt, or if they just were not hat-wearers, but we had a period there where it was really cold, and I worried about them.
"At the same time, I saw something cool that a school class had done, so I put two and two together and thought, 'Hey, that might work for us!'"
"Might work" is an understatement; if you visit Halcyon House, you'll see nine residents in the community's memory care households proudly sporting hats that they designed themselves under Sky's tutelage. (You can see a few of them in the photo above.)
Artists at work
Here's how the project came together:
After doing a bit of planning, Sky gathered a group of residents and talked with them about favorite hats from their pasts, or hats they felt they'd like to wear one day. Then Sky passed out the markers and asked the residents to draw pictures of those hats.
The residents worked diligently, Sky says, and ended up with beautiful representations of hats that appealed to or meant something to them.
Sky then collected the drawings and gave them to one of her fellow team members, Certified Nursing Assistant Maria Canchola, shown in the photo at left. Over a weekend, on her own time, Maria used her crocheting skills to bring the hats to life.
"I knew if I went to Maria, she wouldn't say 'no' because she has such a huge heart," Sky says. "She's so talented and so giving, and she had crocheted something for my baby, so I knew how special her work is."
"They pay me with their smiles"
Maria says she was delighted to take on the project.
"I've made things for the residents before because I love doing things to make them feel special, and I crochet a lot and have a lot of different colors of yarn, so everything I needed was right there," she says.
"Yes, it took some time, but making the people feel special is part of my job. I love to help, and I enjoy making them smile. I told my husband, 'The residents, they pay me with their smiles.'"
Maria delivered the hats in gift bags decorated with the pictures the residents had drawn. Sky said when the residents received their gifts, "it was like Christmas."
"We brought the hats in and (the residents) just lit up," Sky says. "They showed them off to everyone. They were so proud. One resident wore hers for four hours, and whenever anyone went by, she would call out, 'Did you see my hat?'"
Sky says projects such as creation of the hats "are just part of what we do here because we love our jobs and we love the people we care for."
"There's just a lot of love here, and Maria is a big part of that," Sky says. "And I'm just glad I'll never have to worry again that the residents won't wear their hats when they go outside!"