For older adults still living at home, especially those who need assistance with some daily tasks, their options are limited. Those who are physically able can brave the shopping and work themselves, or they can ask friends and families for assistance. But both of those options include the risk of contracting COVID-19. So many seniors have made decisions to do without assistance, which not only puts them at risk, but also means they are cut off socially from most people.
That leaves those working in senior communities to answer the following difficult question: How can we combat loneliness and promote social, intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and physical health while also following social distance protocols? The Providence Life Enrichment Departments have answered that question by finding creative ways to keep their residents engaged. Their commitment to fighting social isolation during a pandemic has helped their residents feel appreciated and engaged, despite the current restrictions.
Many of our communities are still enjoying some of their favorite activities, such as a Hymn Sing and trivia contests (with prizes!), from the comfort and safety of their doorway. A staff member stands in the hallway and leads activities using a microphone, and residents happily greet each other from a safe distance.
“The activities have become even more personalized and individualized as we go room-to- room daily,” says Diane Giglio, Life Enrichment Director at Victorian Village Health & Wellness Center. “We’ve learned many of the residents’ favorite songs, and we enjoy music together.”
One of the most popular times of day at our communities are when the Life Enrichment carts come by. Many communities surprise their residents with bags of goodies, snacks, or fun games. “We go by with an activity or snack cart at least once a week, just to make sure we touch base with every resident,” says Connie Jaros, Victorian Village Life Enrichment Director for Independent and Assisted Living. “We get a chance to see if there’s anything they need. And since meals are delivered to each resident’s room, someone is checking in with them on a daily basis.”
Carrie Fahey, Royal Atrium Inn’s new Life Enrichment Director, began working there right in the middle of the pandemic. “We have the residents fill out ‘Activity Room Service Requests’ to find out what they’d especially enjoy—manicures, puzzles, FaceTime—and then we find ways to give them that individualized experience,” she says. “But we’ve also been doing other things that we might not pursue in normal times. For instance, we’re starting a free online class from Harvard about the Pyramids of Giza.”
Royal Park Place and Royal Atrium Inn just started a streaming channel to share content with residents in their rooms, and they have also been organizing FaceTime and Zoom calls for residents and their families. Carrie also shared one of her favorite moments of technology. “One of our resident’s grandsons was getting married. I brought it up on Facebook Live so she could see her first grandchild’s wedding. The family was so appreciative.”
And it’s not just the staff who get the residents engaged. “It’s been neat to see the residents encourage each other,” she says. “The residents do a hallway hymn sing on their own every Sunday. And with hallway activities, the residents will say, ‘Go remind so-and-so and make sure they don’t miss this.’ They’re looking out for each other, my assistant Linda and I keep track of who’s coming to activities, so if someone hasn’t checked in in a few days, we find a way to get them involved.”
At all of our communities, we have staff assisting residents with video calls to family and friends. This communication helps ease the heartaches that come from missing their visitors. Residents have also been sending messages to family on our Facebook pages. Our organization is blessed to be facing this pandemic during a time when we have advanced technology at our fingertips. We will continue to ensure that our residents have as much interaction and activity as we can.