None of us will remain untouched by COVID-19, whether it’s through knowing someone who has contracted the virus or through its sweeping economic effect. Recently, we at Asbury had our first confirmed diagnosis, which resulted, we believe, from overseas travel.
COVID-19 has changed our schedules and required us to change the way we operate on a daily basis. It has forced us to physically distance ourselves from each other. Most challenging in this profession, it has forced us to physically distance ourselves from the seniors we serve unless we are providing essential services.
Yet I come to work each morning invigorated by the important work we are doing to minimize the risk of COVID-19 for the residents who have placed their trust in us. My leadership team and I feel an incredible sense of responsibility to ensure that our communities have the resources they need to continue delivering on our mission. I know my colleagues share this sense of responsibility. As an operator, I believe the value of what we do has never been more evident.
I know with certainty what is happening not only at Asbury but at communities across our nation: Associates are doing all they can to brighten residents’ days through this unprecedented situation, and keep them safe.
I know this because I “grew up” in senior living. As a teenager, I worked as an aide in a nursing home, and I never left this profession. I’ve served as a nursing home administrator, retirement community executive director and chief operating officer. I understand how directly our associates affect lives – whether they are providing healthcare, delivering a meal, making a maintenance call or teaching a seated fitness class. Along with the service, they provide connection, support and friendship.
After more than 30 years in this field, I’ve seen associates’ determination to put residents’ needs first countless times. I’ve seen the incredible dedication they have to one another.
Throughout this crisis, I continue to hear stories that are inspiring but not surprising to someone with my background.
Wellness teams are holding Facebook Live meditation classes and filming fitness and cooking classes for campus TV. One mother and daughter are connecting by solving a community’s daily riddle – delivered via email – over the phone.
I’ve heard about parties on carts that are wheeled up and down hallways, grow kits being created that give residents plants to care for, and a spring Bingo game that offers lots of creative and healthy ways for residents to stay engaged while staying safe.
Associates are tapping technology to share video messages between residents and family members, helping people set up Netflix or FaceTime and Skype calls with loved ones, and setting up pen pal programs.
Our work is making a difference. My mother, who lives at our Bethany Village community, recently shared that a friend’s daughter wanted her to come live with her as we weather this crisis. Her mother’s response: “I am staying. I’m in the best and safest place to be.” Another family member shared his deep appreciation of how associates in skilled nursing were helping him stay in touch with his mother. His words: “If we didn’t consider them to be part of our family before this, we do now.”
At the same time, I do not want to paint older adults as victims in this crisis. Although seniors are more vulnerable to COVID-19, they are talented, civic-minded people, and many are getting busy helping as they can.
Some are writing letters to fellow residents, organizing food drives and continuing to deliver Meals on Wheels despite the risk to themselves.
Recently, residents from our senior living communities joined many others in sewing masks for healthcare workers. Another is teaching law students in China from a virtual classroom he created in his apartment because he could not travel there in person this year.
One and all, we are continuing to reach out and let each other know that we care and to remain vigilant in minimizing the effects of this virus. Although our communities take physical distancing to heart, we are using old and new tricks to ensure that social and emotional connection continues.
We are all in this together, and at Asbury and all across senior living, both associates and residents are embracing this spirit. I have never been prouder to be part of this profession.
For a look at what Asbury associates are doing at various locations, visit this page: https://www.asbury.org/superheroes-work-at-asbury/