COVID-19 came to the United States in mid-February. Most states went into some form of lockdown around mid-March. Reports of the new, unknown virus were saying that seniors were among the most at risk. The concern for facilities was three-fold. Residents and patients are in the senior group, many of the residents are recovering from surgery or injuries, and most have an underlying illness. These are the very reasons they live in a senior care facility! This caused senior care facilities to respond with increased health initiatives, increased cleaning protocols, strict visitation rules, and limitations on in-facility interactions.
This created a problem for seniors and staff. Seniors in long term care facilities, and in recovery, rely on activities for social, mental, and physical engagement. While the most important priority was the senior’s physical health, the morale of the patients and residents is also of vital importance. This created an opportunity for some of the more creative staff to help the lonely, quarantined, and frightened residents.
First of all, having this unprecedented, stressful, time, it has become clear that the healthcare workers in the senior homes and facilities are heroes. They work the front lines every day, striving to help everyone stay healthy or recover. Healthcare workers are of vital importance every day, and watching them at this time has been truly amazing.
Next, because activities have been upended, canceled, and nearly impossible, activity coordinators and other staff have come up with brilliant, creative, and unique ideas to have activities and lift morale, while closely following safety protocols. These activities have largely included taking advantage of technology, social distancing in hallways, and using windows as barriers.
A few of the most noteworthy activities have been hallway Bingo, visits from local animals, bookmobile, family video calls, remote worship services, and sing-alongs. First, for hallway Bingo, residents or patients sit in their doorway, appropriately socially distancing, and have the activity staff call the Bingo numbers out down the long hallway. This gives the residents the ability to interact, chat, and play together while following the safety protocols.
Next, some facilities have set up a “bookmobile.” This is a (properly sanitized) cart that is taken to residents so they can choose new reading material to keep them entertained. Having the books brought to them limits their out-of-room interactions, and helps maintain appropriate social distancing, while still allowing the residents to participate in an activity they enjoy.
Technology is an important part of quarantine. In some facilities, video calls have become the only way residents or patients can communicate with their families. Many senior care facilities have scheduled weekly video calls to make sure visitation can continue on a regular basis. Residents and patients have also been using technology to participate in remote worship services.
Another creative way senior care staff has been keeping the morale of patients and residents up is through animal visitation. At Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center of Frederick, they had local horses visit residents through outdoor windows.
In these unprecedented times, it has become apparent that healthcare personnel, staff, and volunteers care deeply about the local senior population. They have worked tirelessly to make sure seniors stay physically healthy, recover from illnesses, are able to participate in activities, and are well informed.