Kara Hoedebecke, Regional Hospice Coordinator, Transitions Hospice and Palliative Care

One of the things that I really enjoy about my career at Transitions Hospice is the extra lengths that we go to for our patients and communities. These range from organizing many different interactive activities and bringing goodies and treats to communities, to collecting donations that serve to enhance the lives of the residents and patients we serve.  My most recent project included creating Transitions Hospice Busy Boards.  

Busy boards are therapeutic boards that bring everyday items together in an appealing and portable location so that loved ones with memory loss can continue to practice recognizable activities in a calm setting. Devoid of childlike features, the boards are designed to maintain the dignity of aging adults.

The idea for these boards came to me when I was at a hospice consultation with a family whose loved one was going to be brought onto our services for Alzheimer’s disease. His wife was very heartbroken and distraught, because not only was she looking at end of life care for her husband of 60 years, but she also could no longer be his caregiver and had to place him in a skilled nursing facility. During consultation, she mentioned that her biggest concern was his quality of life. She told me stories of how her husband used to build anything you asked of him, and that he was a “tinker-er” even still.

During the progression of his disease, her husband would wander through the house taking things apart, proclaiming that he was fixing them. She didn’t have it in her heart to correct him and tell him that he was actually doing more harm than good, so she waited until he went to bed before trying to “fix his fixings.” She was so worried that by placing him in this facility he wouldn’t get to do things like that anymore, the last thing that was bringing him joy.

As I sat listening to her, my heart broke for both of them.  I asked her if she ever thought of bringing in a Busy Board. Not surprisingly, she didn’t know what that was. I shared with her about the different kinds of boards that there are. As I talked more about them, I could see her spirits lifting and her eyes had lit up. At the end of our meeting she said she was going to look online with her son to try and find one that was within their means.

As the days went on, I hadn’t heard from the wife, so Idecided to follow up with her to see how her husband was doing.  After catching up, she expressed how thankful she was for the idea, but that the ones her and her son thought that he would really enjoy were simply too expensive. After our call, I was determined to help find a solution for a family and a patient who were in need of something like a Busy Board to bring them happiness, purpose, and an excitement about living. 

The next day, I went to various hardware and craft stores and purchased items to build a Busy Board. I decided to make a few additional boards to donate to other facilities to benefit multiple residents. All I could think about as I built these boards was how many people could truly benefit from the use of a Busy Board. To date, I have made and donated 6 Busy Boards to the facilities we serve.

Busy Boards for our amazing patients!
Busy Boards for our amazing patients!

I have had a spectacular amount of positive feedback and gratitude from my memory care and skilled nursing homes for having been able to provide these activities. Moving forward, I plan to continue making Busy Boards and donating them to families and facilities on Transitions’ behalf because, at the end of the day, It’s About Living.