Assisted living facilities seek joy while taking precautions

Published 7:59 am Saturday, March 21, 2020

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After COVID-19 made its way to the United States, organizations nationwide started taking more serious precautionary measures to ensure the safety and health of those under their care.

Current data shows that the elderly are more at risk if exposed to the virus. Therefore, assisted living facilities and nursing homes had to figure how to safeguard their residents.

Such facilities have been left with little choice but to restrict visitation and only allow employees and medical professional through their doors.

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To mitigate any chance of the virus reaching the older residents, staff members perform questionnaires every morning and have their temperature taken before interacting with residents.

assisted living

Antoinette King with resident Judith Hoffman of Currituck House. Courtesy Antoinette King, executive director of Currituck House

Risha Sims, assistant executive director with Currituck House, said if residents are in need of personal belongings, family members can take them to the parking lot where staff will be glad to meet them.

With the lack of family interaction, facilities have found other ways for their residents to see and speak to their loved ones. Sims said her residents have been able to FaceTime their family members on a regular basis and Social Services is able to check on their patients through video calls.

“We’ve had cases where family members will sit outside of a window and communicate that way by writing notes, or they may call,” Sims said.

assisted living

William Smith, a resident at Tyrrell House, with dog Darla. Courtesy James Harvey

Over at Tyrrell House, James Harvey said families have been very corporative and understand that this is a sensitive matter.

“99% of family members are very supportive and grateful for us taking these measures,” Harvey said.

Leola Gray, a resident at Currituck House, said she is able to talk to her daughters and son every day. “I’m concerned about people, but it’s as if nothing is wrong here . . . we’re happy,” she said.

assisted living

Leola Gray, a resident at Currituck House. Courtesy Antoinette King, executive director of Currituck House

Activities directors have had to find new and innovative ways to engage the residents without congregating in larger groups. Bradley Cole Yates, life enrichment coordinator at Tyrrell House, said his residents have been playing “walkie-talkie” bingo while in their own individual rooms. He has also found a new way to bring some joy to the residents with a special visitor.

“We have a puppy come in,” said Candance Scarborough, a resident at Tyrrell House. Yates has a dog named Darla who comes into visit the residents a few times a week now. “She’s just a joy to have around,” Scarborough said.

assisted living

Candance Scarborough, a resident at Tyrrell House. Courtesy James Harvey

Although Scarborough was upset about not being able to go home with her daughter and grandson every weekend, she said she is “trying to have patience” and appreciates what the facility has done to help put a smile on her face.

Sims said at Currituck House, staff has been focusing on cognitive activities, like making collages, painting and coloring to help residents stay busy.

“Moving forward, we will continue to do whatever we can to make them happy . . . we want them to feel at home while they are here,” Yates said.

assisted living

Ruben Payne, a resident at Tyrrell House, with dog Darla. Courtesy James Harvey

To help bring even more joy to the residents during this time, many nursing homes have received cards and letters from the community. Whitney Wright, marketing director at Spring Arbor, said “We even have kids from the community writing cards and letters and things like that for the residents.”

So far, the facilities have received an outpouring of love and support from their local communities. Baked goods, teddy bears, and cards have been donated. Currituck House (141 Moyock Landing Dr., Moyock), Tyrrell House (950 US-64, Columbia) and Spring Arbor of the Outer Banks (803 Bermuda Bay Blvd., Kill Devil Hills) are all accepting donations for their residents.



Additional restrictions imposed on entry to Dare County; non-resident property owners prohibited

Outer Banks Distilling produces and distributes free Kill Devil Sanitizer to give back to the community