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COVID-19 has affected our lives in many ways. It’s also affected the activities nursing homes, or skilled care facilities, provide for residents.

“We’re a very social center. Our residents are big on crafts and there’s a group that loves to bake. They make cookies and brownies—it reminds them of what they did for their families,” said Kim Rocheleau, administrator at Lebanon ManorCare. The facility in Lebanon has 159 beds, but Rocheleau said there’s an average of 150 to 156 residents.

While those activities as well as others such as bingo and visits with therapy animals and have been discontinued due to COVID-19, Rocheleau said the facility’s staff has found creative ways to adapt some activities and continue to engage residents. Instead of bingo with residents gathered in one room, there’s hallway bingo to allow residents to participate from their own room. Daily visits from a therapy dog have morphed into “pony window visits.” She explained that a therapy pony visited the window to each resident’s room.

Families and friends can’t visit in-person, but they can do video chats. The recent Mother’s Day holiday was a busy one for video chats between families and residents.

“Families can also drop items off for their loved one in our lobby,” Rocheleau said, “We had a number of flowers delivered by families for Mother’s Day. Local florists have also provided flowers for staff and residents for both Mother’s Day and Easter.”

And while residents can’t gather to bake their own treats, community members and businesses have provided treats to both residents and staff. She said the community has been generous in its outreach and support of staff that are caring for residents.

“As caregivers, they’re at risk, too,” Rocheleau said.

She added that residents are doing well and have adapted to the changes. “They understand why we’ve had to make the changes,” she said.

YouTube video
(Courtesy of Rebecca Troain)

Steven Zablocki, executive director of Cedar Haven Healthcare Center, said prior to COVID-19, the facility offered programming seven days a week for its nearly 290 residents. Activities included church services, barbecues and picnics, arts and crafts, walks in the garden or along a trail, tea time, music and various themed activities. Cedar Haven also hosted regular visits with therapy animals as well as an annual car show.

“We had a lot of indoor and outdoor activities,” Zablocki said.

As with Lebanon ManorCare, there’s been a shift in response to COVID-19 at Cedar Haven.

“We want to continue to engage our residents, but in ways to ensure they remain safe,” Zablocki said.

Since in-person visitation from families has been restricted, Cedar Haven is offering virtual visits via a secure system that Zablocki said is similar to Zoom. He said a number of computers have been deployed for this purpose.

“Families and friends of our residents can schedule time for a virtual visit, and our staff ensures that it happens,” he said. “We want to continue to engage our residents.”

The virtual visits were in demand on Mother’s Day, and a number of residents received flower deliveries from family members. Zablocki said there were also a lot of “window visits” between family members and residents.

Read More: As area nursing homes track virus, video chats reduce isolation for residents

“Even though they can’t be together physically, they can see each other, and even speak with one another on the phone,” he explained. “Our families have been really appreciative of both our virtual visits and window visits.”

For other special occasions such as milestone birthdays, Cedar Haven is working with families. One resident recently celebrated a 101st birthday. The family had a window visit, and enjoyed cake courtesy of Cedar Haven’s staff. The cake was distributed to family members through an open window.

The facility’s resident council continues to meet, but it’s now a virtual meeting. The facility also has its own TV channel, and that’s been used to broadcast activities such as “call bell bingo.” Zablocki said the facility recently began televising the religious services held in its chapel and plans to continue doing so going forward. Staff members have also participated in themed weeks, where they’ll dress to fit a theme and hold a parade which is broadcast to residents on the TV channel.

“We’re fortunate to have a lot of technology available to us,” Zablocki said. “We listen to what residents would like to have for activities, and work on making that happen in some fashion.”

Read all of LebTown’s COVID-19 coverage here.

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Rochelle Shenk

Rochelle A. Shenk is a writer with over two decades experience. Her work appears in regional business publications and lifestyle magazines as well as area newspapers. She writes about business and municipal sectors as well as arts and entertainment, human interest features, and travel and tourism. Rochelle...


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