An elderly woman with sparkling blue eyes peers out the window as blustery gales paint her yard with winter’s wonder. It’s Christmas morning, and it’s right about the time her family’s arrival lightens her sharp spirit. She has spent most of the evening and morning preparing a meal that she knows will fill their bellies and her stories will fill their hearts with the tales of yesteryear. However, social distancing and the extra-added strains of the health officials coronavirus’ recommendations have all but chased away the old-fashioned visit in 2020.

Nursing homes and assisted-living facilities across the country are experiencing frustration with the “new norm.” Communication has gone virtual as facilities across the country try and maintain the health and safety of those elderly loved ones in their care. St. Luke’s Home Activity Director Joyce Decker noted that this year has been challenging for staff to keep the spirits flourishing as they face unparalleled times.

“One thing is that family is very important to residents and that’s probably one of the hardest aspects for the residents with this (pandemic),” Decker said. “Many of them had family here daily before and now, (it’s) visiting by the phone and we also have tablets where they can visit. Recently, we were able to start outdoor visits in our garage for family members. That’s the hardest part for them — not being able to see them in-person and close, they’re used to hugging each other and this has been (tough) on them.”

St. Luke’s Home residents also relished the old time music and the musicians that used to come and perform concerts for them, Decker continued. Though these times are difficult, Decker said residents are adapting fairly well to what must be done for the time being for their overall safety and health.

“We have activities with small groups and it just depends on what color we’re in the state. If we were in the green or yellow, we’re able to have groups (with) no more than 10 residents and 6 feet apart. And there were times where one-to-one’s were completed with residents in their rooms. We adapt the activities as much as possible so the residents can continue their preferences,” she said.

Though the current health situation is evolving on a day-to-day basis, Decker noted a few benefits to isolation and reduced groupings that are surging above the coronavirus’ darkness.

“They enjoy one-on-one time with staff in the smaller group settings. They get to know each other better by having the smaller groups instead of the larger groups. And the residents have made suggestions that they like to do and we’ve been offering those also,” she said.

Time will stand the test as to what will come down the road with changing health protocols for nursing homes across the world. In-person interaction is, however, the light at the end of the tunnel.

“I’m hoping that soon that things can be back to how they used to be where the residents were able to enjoy the old time music, have musicians here, have their family be able to visit,” Decker added.

Now that Christmas is here, more than ever the elderly seek communication whether it is sending a handwritten letter, a phone call or video chatting. Visiting from a distance, though it may not be as adequate as sitting down with grandma for a cup of coffee, is imperative.

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