Staff are working hard to make sure residents stay happy and connected to the outside world while visitors are restricted at Mercy Living Center due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Normally, family and friends, community members and groups come into Mercy regularly to play music, dance or otherwise entertain residents, or just sit and visit with them. But since state restrictions mean no visitors can enter the nursing home, staff members are using technology in new ways.
Staff are facilitating video calls with family members who would normally be able to stop in for a visit. The staff members work with the family to find which platform is best for them - Facetime, WebEx or something else - and they set up regularly scheduled calls that let residents see the faces and hear the voices of their loved ones.
For some staff members, this means incorporating a lot more technology than they're used to into their workday. There has been a learning curve, but staff members see it as crucial to the wellbeing of the residents they work with.
"It's really important, and I'm really, really happy that we're able to help with that," said Jamie Reynolds, who is in charge of activities at Mercy and who is facilitating many of the calls. "The families need to see their loved one and hear their voice and be reassured that everything is okay with them."
Last week, Jamie helped one resident do a video call with his wife, who lives nearby and would normally visit every day. The wife asked him to sing her a song, and he sang "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" to her and she joined in. It was a beautiful moment that Jamie felt lucky to have been able to witness.
Mercy residents are still getting together for group exercise every day, but because they need to social distance, it's limited to six or seven residents where it used to be 15. Staff have also been making time for more on one-on-one visits than they'd normally be able to fit into the day.
Jamie and her team are increasing the amount of times they take a cart around to each resident's room and give them a snack or something to drink. This activity is more about giving the residents opportunities for one-on-one time with staff than anything else.
Staff has always helped take care of residents' nails and give them manicures, but they usually have stylists from local salons come in to cut residents' hair. Since that isn't an option right now, Mercy employees have had to learn to do it themselves. Jamie, one of the two staffers who have added hair stylist to their resumes, said she really enjoys this new task.
Today for the first time, our staff was able to coordinate live entertainment streaming. Lou Allen, one of the people who regularly comes in to play music, offered to stream himself playing for Mercy residents, so staff worked a way for small groups of residents to watch a stream of it. Normally around 25 people would gather to watch Lou, so he's going to try to stream twice a month so different residents get a chance to watch him.
And now that the mechanics of it have been worked out, staff plan to work with other musicians to bring them in digitally, too.
While our activities staff have stretched their skills to become IT people and hair stylists, other staff are pitching in to help with activities. One member of Mercy's environmental services staff dressed up like the Easter bunny to bring smiles to the faces of residents. And two other employees have started a pre-lunch ritual with residents where they lead a singalong by playing music and encouraging residents to sing and dance.
If you would like to send a message to Mercy residents to brighten their day, you can! Write a note, draw a picture and send a photo of it, or share a photo that makes you happy at adirondackhealth.org/send-a-message.