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A lasting makeover

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Kristen Baucom doesn’t think much about makeup. She hardly wears any. Someone last applied it for her decades ago, as a young girl preparing for a ballet recital.

So it surprised her as much as anyone one day when it hit her: a makeover was just the thing she needed to help a patient go home.

As an occupational therapist at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, Kristen helps patients prepare for life at home after a serious injury or illness. She uses traditional exercises and therapy, meant to teach patients everything from bathing and dressing to balancing.

What’s more, a few weeks into her rehabilitation, she was losing her confidence. The patient worried she would not be able to live independently and needed some encouragement, Kristen said.

“So I thought, ‘Well, I’ll trick her and get her to walk,’” she said. Kristen made a bet with her patient: “Walk around the nurses’ station and back – about 180 feet – and I’ll let you give me a makeover.”

“She just took off,” she said. “She was so excited, because she’s really into her makeup.”

Colleagues watched as the patient made the loop, slowly but smiling. They had not seen her so happy since she started her therapy. Needless to say, the patient won the bet.

Kristen was nervous about the makeover. She’d been an occupational therapist 12 years and hadn’t tried a motivational tactic like this before. But she stayed true to her word; the next morning, she armed her patient with one-pound wrist weights – to incorporate upper-body strength – and some makeup.

Kristen proudly sported her new look through lunch and beyond. Several people told her she looked ready for a night out. Others whistled as she walked by. It was a change for Kristen, who describes her typical makeup routine as “minimalist.”

The makeover changed her patient, too. After the bet, she smiled more and became more motivated. And she gained confidence. A few days later, she returned home.

“After I agreed to do it, I was like, ‘What have I done?’” Kristen laughed. “But to see her so excited and to help with her motivation, it was worth it. It really was.”