It’s still hard to believe what’s happening in the world right now. It was only few months ago I blogged about a suspected case of the novel coronavirus in my hometown. To say a lot has happened since then would be an understatement. My heart goes out to all of those that are ill or have lost loved ones. And I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to the healthcare workers that are risking their lives to care for those affected by COVID-19. It really is a strange and uncertain time to be alive and I hope all of you are finding ways to stay healthy and positive.
As I’m sure you know, staying positive is easier said than done. The news is dominated by heartbreaking stories around the devastating effects of the pandemic. Operators are struggling financially. Most of our residents are in isolation. Staff are putting in long hours and often living on-site to avoid spreading the virus. Across the world, weddings are postponed, birthday parties cancelled, and we’re separated from our family and friends when we need them most. This is a reality that none of us saw coming.
Still, I remain optimistic. And that’s because every once in a while, a story about people supporting one another manages to sneak through the clutter. When I began writing this column at the start of the year, I said I would focus on sharing the positive stories. I continue to do so and challenge each one of you to share the positive things happening daily in the senior living space, even during this time of crisis. I want to share a few recent stories that give me hope for the future.
Many residents have been confined to their rooms as a protective measure against COVID-19. Their families are not allowed to visit and they’re unable to socialize with their friends in the community. As heartbreaking as this situation is, it’s been so encouraging to hear how senior care staff, families and strangers from around the world are stepping up to help residents stave off loneliness during this time. Even our community leaders are stepping out of their typical roles to help with life enrichment events that encourage social interaction for residents.
Several communities have implemented “Adopt a Grandparent” programs that pair residents with people that share their interests. Hangouts are done virtually via Facebook Portal TV and other services. One of my colleagues here at OnShift asked her kids to make cards for residents at the senior care community that her mother works for. They were so excited and spent hours penning small messages of support accompanied by sweet drawings. Photo below for reference.
Family members have also begun virtually connecting with residents and using all sorts of creative ways to reach their loved ones. The son of an assisted living resident in Ohio used a bucket truck – which he had handy for his job as an arborist – to visit his mother on the third floor of the community. He chatted with her from a safe distance and his wife and dogs even came for the visit.
Others are standing outside their loved ones’ rooms, holding signs of support and celebrating life milestones like birthdays and anniversaries through the window. A group of kids even visited a local community in Kansas to play tic-tac-toe with residents through their windows. Using tape to construct the board, each party filled in their x’s and o’s on either side of the window.
To celebrate Easter Sunday, a community here in Ohio hosted an Easter parade for residents to watch from their windows. Over 60 cars decorated for the holiday showed up to drive by the community and wish residents a Happy Easter.
But providers aren't just going above and beyond for residents. Organizations across the country are also going out of their way to ensure their staff, who are working longer hours and risking their lives, are safe and supported during this time. They’re providing flexible schedules, free lunches, on-site childcare and rides to work. Many are offering meditation and nap rooms to keep stress at bay.
And to keep spirits up, communities are sending ‘thank you’ letters to staff, organizing themed dress-up days and even bringing staff and residents together to create fun sing-along videos about the importance of hygiene and social distancing in stopping the spread of the virus.
Celebrities are also doing their part to #stopthespread. For instance, Matthew McConaughey, along with his wife, mother and kids played virtual bingo with residents in a senior living community in Texas. The Office’s John Krasinski launched a YouTube show called “Some Good News” that is solely dedicated to coverage of positive stories. And musical artists are hosting free virtual concerts to keep those sheltering in place connected and entertained.
There really is no shortage of good deeds happening out there. And if there is a silver lining to this crisis it's that we are all coming together. Perhaps some of the most uplifting, albeit heart-wrenching, stories that I have come across are those about the selfless deeds from the front lines. For example, a nurse in Washington FaceTimed the daughter of a dying patient so they could have one last moment together, express their love and say goodbye. This nurse, as she promised the daughter, then sat alongside the ailing patient until she passed so she did not have to do so alone.
Our healthcare workers are doing incredible, unimaginable and dangerous work. It’s this work that gives me hope and I hope it does the same for you. As we continue in this fight, let’s not forget to share more of these positive stories, and, of course, celebrate the amazing sacrifices many are making during this difficult time.