At Camelot Assisted Living, Patricia Gaspard does what she can every day to spread joy, beauty and monkey bread. Actually, only Thursdays are monkey bread days, but joy and beauty are round the clock and a part of who Gaspard is.
Gaspard came to Camelot Assisted Living seven years ago as a cosmetologist running the hair salon for the residents. After a year on the job, the director asked her to come to work full time in a dual capacity — as the activities director and continuing to run the salon.
“That Patricia is a real peach,” said Burna Smith, an 84-year-old Camelot Assisted Living resident. “Not just in the beauty shop — she cooks all sorts of good stuff for us. She does everything she can to please us.”
Gaspard enjoys her job so much that she says she doesn’t consider it work. Her outlook is that the residents could be her parents, so she treats them the way she would want anyone to treat her own mother and father.
“This job is the best. I get to make them pretty and have fun with them,” Gaspard said, as she prepared an apple dump cake for an afternoon snack and chat session for residents. “This — I like what I do. I enjoy it. It’s very fulfilling. I just love working with the residents. They’re fun!”
Though she arrives to work at 6 a.m. every day, hours before the salon opens, somehow she maintains a high-energy level throughout the day. Her first task is to prepare and sets out snacks with coffee for the residents.
“Who else gets to wake to the smell of freshly baked monkey bread and other goodies every day — and their hair done for free once a week?” she asked with a smile. “Why wouldn’t you want to live over here?”
Residents enjoy the cookies, rice crispy treats or apple dump cakes, courtesy of Gaspard, who takes her cues in planning the monthly activity calendar based on the Resident Council’s requests and recommendations.
Ruby Newman, a Camelot resident, appreciates the Bingo games Gaspard organizes, but even more than that she enjoyed the recent virtual reality carnival that Camelot hosted.
“I’m pretty lucky and win a lot at Bingo,” Newman said. “But the carnival we had with the blindfold — now that was fun. It was like I was flying. I loved it.”
Sue Robeson, Newman’s daughter, visits her mom often, but her mother’s daily phone calls keep her abreast of everything that’s going on.
“They keep them busy,” Robeson said. “Mom calls me every day at 5:30. The staff here is so great. The residents do so much — and Mom is happy here. In fact, we are all happy about Mom’s home here at Camelot.”
On their own time, residents visit the library, put together puzzles, enjoy the movie room or the new art space on the second floor. This creative space is an open area with supplies to paint and sew. Some residents, like 93-year-old Betty Smith, take up new hobbies based on the materials and encouragement Gaspard offers. Smith began painting a little over a year ago, though many who see her artwork think it’s her lifelong passion.
“I was a little late to discover my love of painting, but it’s been a good pastime,” said Smith.
Camelot Assisted Living is a place people come, sometimes hesitantly. Yet, they choose to stay.
“They like it here! It’s cozy, and they have their own space, but we’re here if they need us,” Gaspard said. “I do what I can to treat them with love and respect and make their days as enjoyable as possible — it’s their home. I love being here with them.”