Mary moved into an independent living community in February 2020. She was excited to move as her husband had recently passed and she was lonely at home. She was also tired of the home upkeep and cooking for one so moving to an assisted living community was an answer to her prayers. She enjoyed three meals a day that she did not have to cook, activities that kept her busy and meeting new people and the cleaning person who visited her apartment weekly and even changed her bed for her. Unfortunately, a few weeks later Covid-19 arrived, and things changed. Drastically.
Suddenly, all meals were being delivered to her room, activities were on hold, friends and family could not visit. She was isolated in an apartment, alone. It gave her time to unpack and get things organized but it was not what she had signed up for.
There have been gradual improvements. Life enrichment staff got highly creative and had entertainment outside that residents could enjoy from their rooms. They learned to play Bingo and other activities with others on their floor safely socially distanced by sitting in the door of their apartments. Staff visited daily bringing treats and company. Over time group exercise and other group activities started up but residents are sitting 6’ apart from each other. They may be smaller groups but they’re seeing each other and doing something outside their apartments.
In the interest of keeping residents safe from infection, visitation by friends and family inside the building was stopped. That is the hardest thing for residents. Families got creative and stood outside the window or balcony and visited from afar. Communities set up plexiglass barriers so family could sit on one side and the resident the other. Families have organized drive by parades with banners and balloons.
Recently the Department of Human Services (DHS) announced residents could visit with friends and family by sitting outside. They must be properly socially distanced, and all must wear masks. This has been a huge relief to residents and their families.
Mary has lived in her community now for five months. It is different than when she moved in but there is a spirit of camaraderie now that staff and residents have worked well together to make the circumstances better. Now masks and PPE are fashion statements, and everybody enjoys the variety. While it may be a long time (if ever) things are back to how they were, staff at assisted living communities have been extremely careful to ensure their residents’ safety and have been very creative in providing entertainment and activities that the residents love so much while still ensuring social distancing and safety first.