A virus that lurks but does not enter—
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Decatur House, along with most of the rest of the business world, is having to implement unprecedented restrictions, adaptations, and modifications to company policies and procedures. Deliveries of food and medication left in the front vestibule are quickly unpacked, sanitized and only then delivered to the receiver. The writer of this post is doing so from her newly organized home office. Essential staff members who report to work every day, wear masks throughout their shifts, wash hands more times a day than anyone tries to count, and understand and practice ALL the rules like: Don’t come to work if you’re sick, wear a clean mask every day, did we say wash your hands already?, take your temperature when you arrive at work, and don’t bring fast food or to-go cups into the house.
But of all the precautions and restrictions we’ve had to follow, the hardest has been not being able to welcome family, friends, and visitors into our community.
There have been no visitors, including family members, entertainers, non-essential healthcare workers, regular flower deliveries (though folks are getting personal deliveries), since early March. In the name of safety, a lot has changed. CNA’s have been doing the Wednesday hair washing/blow drying/etc. in place of our professional stylist, Stephanie. Activities have scaled down to those that can be done 6′ apart from one another like BINGO!, movies and TV series (limited number of people per viewing), armchair travel, and some word games. We all look forward to when we can gather again and enjoy group outings, share craft supplies, visit our favorite shopping centers, take scenic drives, and participate in resident meetings.
Virtually, a new normal
In our new normal, families are only available through phone calls, email, or video visits. The technological learning curve of Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype has presented some challenges, but we now appreciate how using these technologies has opened minds and hearts to the inherent drive for connection to the people we love. It’s a virus, and it is making things harder, but, nevertheless, with help from technology, we are adapting.
Though it’s been tough not being able to gather, touch, and share meals, many of our residents and family members have gotten used to, and learned to enjoy, their remote check-ins. Decatur House staff have witnessed virtual sing-a-longs, birthday celebrations, group zooms with up to 17 family members, and lots and lots of smiles during these online visits. Some residents are calling them fun and up-lifting.
As caregivers, what we’ve always known, but are now reminded of every day, is that in the end it’s connection, in any form, that is most essential to our residents. And, for our part, we love being the facilitators of those essential connections. So, in that vein, are grateful to have virtual options available.
Watch our Sharing Love Not Germs video:
How do we help more families, virtually?
Not surprisingly, the pandemic has families on Cape Cod and beyond researching assisted living options for their loved ones. Here at Decatur House, we’ve received several calls and emails over the last few weeks from families struggling to coordinate care for their vulnerable loved ones. The stress of the pandemic has motivated families to secure safer and more long-term living solutions going forward. And of course, we can and want to help them.
Our new addition is continuing to be constructed by a crew of builders who practice social-distancing, wear face masks, and don’t enter the main house—ever for anything. We are so hopeful and excited to see the finished product this fall and to be able to show it to our residents and families, and to welcome new residents to the community.
As we can’t invite interested families in for actual feet-on-the-floor tours at this time, we’ve turned to the power of technology once again to help us share and connect with the community, using our cell phones and apps to create a virtual tour of Decatur House. Although there is nothing quite like walking the sun-drenched halls, experiencing the aroma of Helene and Cynthia’s cooking, and observing the dedicated staff engage with and gently care for our residents, we hope the virtual tour below conveys some of the magic of Decatur House to families looking for a solution, for the “next best home” for their loved one.
Watch our Virtual Tour video:
Some of the new normal is here to stay
Governor Baker says we are all in this together and we will get through it— and we believe him. In the end, the virus will pass, and things will return to normal here with one exception—technology is here to stay. Our iPad will remain queued up for video calls with families and friends, Facebook and Instagram will remain a key conduit for messaging to families, and we’ll be adding more videos to our new YouTube channel. These things provide new ways for our residents and families to stay connected, and when it comes to connection, more is better.
And, who knows, in the new addition, we might put Alexas in every apartment (or maybe not, at least not yet. . )
Please all stay safe, stay sane, and above all, stay connected!