Kathy and Don Beck have taken extraordinary steps to keep the older adults in their small Oregon senior living community safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the first COVID-19 case was reported in a senior care facility in neighboring Washington state, the Becks — along with Don Beck’s sister Pam Beck — took the drastic step of temporarily laying off their RiverCrest Living staff of four and moved into the facility to isolate with their nine residents.
RiverCrest, in Oregon City, offers two residences and a central garden courtyard. The main residence, The Lodge, has eight private bedroom apartments with attached bathrooms and kitchenettes. RiverCrest also has an on-site licensed care home with five private bedrooms offering a higher level of care, as well as meals, laundry and housekeeping services.
“This unique response has interrupted the pathway for COVID-19, preventing it from transferring to our residents and care team, who all remain healthy today,” a statement on their website reads.
Kathy Beck, a clinical nutritionist who bought the RiverCrest family business back in 1997, told McKnight’s Senior Living that the conversation started when news reports from overseas talked about the virus originating in Wuhan, China.
“We were paying attention,” she said, adding that the conversation “got serious” once the virus hit the United States. “We just decided when we heard about the cases at Life Care Center in Kirkland going like wildfire — that’s just three to four hours north of us — we decided we had to make a move. It kicked us in high gear.”
March 13, the Becks moved in with their residents and took on the tasks of caregiving, cooking and cleaning for their residents. State officials imposed restrictions on visitation for all licensed long-term care facilities on March 17.
Kathy Beck handles the medication management and hands-on caregiving, and her husband does all of the cooking. Pam Beck, who has been a senior living consultant and owned a family home in Washington state at one time, offered to help when she heard what her brother and sister-in-law were doing, taking on the housekeeping and laundry responsibilities.
Kathy Beck said the first month was “surreal,” but then they “got into the groove.”
“You try to keep healthy habits, making sure you have the energy and ambition each day to move forward,” she said. “Then it just turned into a lifestyle.”
Since they are closed off from the outside world, the residents and the Becks do not have to isolate in their rooms and gather freely in the facility. Oregon is in Phase 1 of its reopening, so Kathy Beck said the facility is still in lockdown.
Recently, the Becks began incorporating staff members back into the fold by having them take over the cooking responsibilities and delivering meals. Kathy Beck said it eases the schedule and gives the three a little “time to regroup.” She’s beginning conversations about having staff members cycle into the facility in shifts with the proper precautions.
RiverCrest also is expanding its window visits. Kathy Beck said they sealed a doorway with a heavy table plastic protector, allowing residents to “touch hands” through the plastic.
She also started taking drives with the residents in her car now that the weather is nice, and the group had a 100-days-in-isolation party just after Father’s Day.
“It has been hard on a couple of them. It has been distressing at times,” she said. “It’s everyday living. You have good days and bad days. You just work through it.
“It’s nice to have the camaraderie of our team, and that our staff is also waiting and being supportive as well.”