Aberdeen Village staff creative, innovative in pandemic response
The rapid spread of COVID-19 across the globe has forced public health measures not seen since the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. Terms such as “social distancing” and “stay-at-home order” have become commonplace in an era of a novel virus for which there is no treatment or vaccine.
Communities such as Aberdeen Village Presbyterian Manor have been forced to re-evaluate protocols to protect residents, who face increased threat of contracting the virus due to the nature of campus-style living arrangements. During this time, normal access to visitors and trips outside the community have necessarily been restricted.
Yet this current reality has sparked compassion and creativity in staff. They have worked to find new ways to ensure residents stay in contact with friends and family, despite the need to remain socially distanced from one another.
“There is a wide variety of people in different departments stepping up,” said Liz Miller, social worker at Aberdeen Village. “Everyone is going above and beyond. It’s not just one department. Different things are happening at different levels of care.”
During the week, staff is taking time to escort assisted living residents outdoors to enjoy a number of activities, such as walking and bird watching.
“A variety of people are taking it upon themselves to take residents out,” Liz said. “It happened beforehand, but it’s much more intentional now. I took someone out to go bird watching today because the resident is an avid bird-watcher.”
Patio time can also be as simple as enjoying some sunshine and warm spring air. Residents remain far enough apart to achieve appropriate social distancing.
Additional person-centered care: While Presbyterian Manor always takes a resident-centered approach to care, Liz said recent challenges have augmented that frame of mind in positive ways.
“The guy I was talking about, the bird-watcher, we realized the way his room was set up made it sort of hard for him to see out the window,” Liz said. “So we rearranged it so he could see outside. It might seem like a small thing, but it was a big thing for him. It improves his quality of life, and it was really insightful of staff to notice.”
The stress of the pandemic has prompted staff to really “hone in” on getting to know residents, to understand their likes and dislikes, and to do everything possible to help residents achieve their preferences.
“We are getting to know what they like — maybe it’s to play piano, or do crosswords, gardening, or reading. We go out of our way to make sure that happens.”
Pop-up dance parties
A Bluetooth speaker and open hallways work together to get residents moving with impromptu dancing. These breaks both encourage exercise and provide a few moments of lighthearted fun.
“The residents will come out of their rooms and dance with us,” Liz said. “We have the room to space out, and it helps them remember that we are in a social environment. It’s really fun and the residents enjoy it.”
Each day, the chaplain takes a few moments to lead the community in a morning prayer, song, and a few words of scripture. The prayer lasts only a few minutes, but sharing a common experience has proven to be a nice way for residents to begin their day. Additionally, Presbyterian Manor has begun offering virtual communion and rosary for Catholic residents, gathering a few residents at a time to participate with others, albeit at a safe distance from one another.
Through Aberdeen Village’s in-house cable channel, the activities staff has created exercise and activities for residents. At 9 a.m. every morning, residents can tune into the channel and continue their exercise routine from the comfort of their rooms.
In addition to exercise, the channel offers movies, bingo games, reruns of Johnny Carson, and even travel content that allows residents to take a virtual tour of a museum or some faraway vacation spot.
Thanks to creative thinking, the dining services department has created a mini-mart on campus to meet residents’ needs and eliminate the need to travel off-site for supplies.
“Instead of placing an order out to a store, if they need some essential products they can buy them directly from the mart,” Liz said. “It’s stocked by the dining services staff, using the ordinary kitchen supply company. It’s all in-house, and it removes the need for them to leave and cuts down on the number of items coming in. It’s providing a world of good for our independent living folks.”
In addition to the market, the dining staff has worked hard to create fun food-centered events for residents, including ice cream socials, banana split days, and afternoon coffee and snacks.
This year, the staff at Aberdeen Village went all out for Mother’s Day with a “Glamour Shot” event for residents.
“We glammed everyone up, created a back drop and took glamour shots,” Liz said. “We did hair, makeup, everything for every single woman. Since family members weren’t able to come in by then, we’ll send the photos to family members.”
Liz extended her appreciation to the staff, including Activities Director Sandy Barnes and Dining Services Director Norma Kester, for their energetic and creative approach to what is otherwise a challenging time.
“Sandy has a whole team of people on activities,” Liz said. “So many of them are doing things behind the scenes and unnamed, but they’re creating some semblance of normal.”
It’s critical to ensure that residents remain emotionally connected to others during this time, and Liz said the staff is thinking of new ways to maintain some sense of normal in what are abnormal times.
“Our ideas are just free-flowing right now,” Liz said. “So long as it’s not an infection control issue, we’re pretty open to just about everything. The reality is that right now, we are our residents’ families. We love them and care for them like our own loved ones. With the stay-at-home orders, people haven’t been able to leave their homes. That burden really does fall to us, and in a lot of ways it’s a privilege.”