People who reside in assisted living and skilled nursing communities have been hit especially hard by isolation over the past several months. In order to keep them healthy and follow the guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, visits by family and friends have been restricted and group participation activities have been limited. Thankfully, professionals working in these communities have taken the opportunity to get creative to keep everyone engaged and entertained, with distancing requirements in place.
“Haley Peters, our activities director, has really done a fantastic job keeping the residents socially distanced but engaged with one another through various activities she does with them,” said Nicole Sharpe, director of sales and marketing at the Shem Creek Health Center with South Bay at Mount Pleasant.
Because of the limitation on large group gatherings, team members at the Shem Creek Health Center have arranged small groups of residents to maintain social distancing while still providing group socialization.
Even more important, residents can stay in touch with family members outside of the community. Fortunately, modern technology has lessened the distance between residents and their loved ones through video chat applications such as Facetime and Zoom.
“Each department manager acts as a ‘resident ambassador’ – adopting a group of residents to ensure they have contact and connection with their loved ones throughout the week,” said Lynne Furlough, South Bay’s campus director.
Restricting on-campus vendors, particularly beauticians, has presented yet another challenge for seniors in community settings. Fortunately, one of Shem Creek Health Center’s occupational therapists, Tanya Wilson, also is a licensed cosmetologist and has willingly provided haircuts and barbering to the residents on campus. Other staff members have facilitated “beauty days,” where residents can have their hair styled and their nails and makeup done. There have even been a couple of fashion shows on campus.
Residents also are continuing to hold celebrations just as they would under normal circumstances, with a few twists. One couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary while under visitation restrictions. In coordination with their family and friends, team members crafted a “night out” on the outdoor patio, complete with a three-course meal, a private waiter, fine linens and balloons.
“Even with the restrictions, we’ve been able to coordinate patio concerts with orchestras, guitarists, soloists and others where our local musicians set up in our memory garden area outside just below our patios in each community,” said Furlough. “We’ve had distanced birthday parties where family members were outside and would sing up to their loved one who was on the balcony. We pretty much have a party every day.”
Shem Creek Health Center encourages community members to socialize with residents whenever possible. Team members have organized drive-by parades where family members, local health care providers and local police and firefighters can drive past, wave to residents and hold up signs and posters.
“Even for those of us who do this professionally and have worked with seniors for many years, COVID has presented an opportunity to understand how important engagement and socialization are to the overall health and well-being of our residents,” said Furlough. “Engagement provides so many benefits to both parties – the joy of sharing daily life outside of the facility for our residents and the gift of sharing the experience and wisdom of our residents with those who reach out to them.”
For more information on the Shem Creek Health Center with South Bay at Mount Pleasant, call 843-936-2800 or visit www.SouthBayAtMountPleasant.com.
By Katherine Waters