The social restrictions imposed to help flatten the COVID-19 curve are tough on everyone. But for residents of long-term-care facilities, who gain so much from regular contact and interaction with family and friends, the inability to have visitors can be especially challenging. Recognizing that social interaction is vital to emotional health, The Laurels of Toledo has implemented a wide variety of measures to ensure the facility’s long-term guests stay connected with loved ones during the ongoing pandemic.
Kristy Wortketter, Director of Marketing for The Laurels of Toledo, explains, “This crisis is very frightening for everybody, and not being able to see loved ones on top of that has the potential to make the situation even worse for our guests, so we’re doing whatever we can to keep spirits up and maintain normalcy to the extent possible.”
One of these measures is encouraging virtual engagement with loved ones via technology such as FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom. In fact, early in the outbreak, The Laurels acquired tablets to ensure guests could communicate remotely with their families. “We’ve also designated a special email address for non-urgent communication that allows families to send letters, updates, and photos to our guests,” Wortketter says. Guests who have difficulty typing but would like to send letters to loved ones have the option of dictating their message to a staff member who will then relay it via email.
In addition to virtual communication, families can schedule window visits with their loved one at The Laurels. During these visits, family members can come right up to a guest’s window and interact with them through the glass. If the guest’s room doesn’t allow window access, the staff can schedule a time to take the family to a designated area in the building with an accessible window. In addition, Laurels Recreational Services Director Page Rostetter is planning an activity in which guests trace their hands on cardboard, cut them out and decorate them, and then place them on their windows so they and their loved ones can put their hands together, at least symbolically, through the glass.
Also, with schools closed and area students learning from home, The Laurels is exploring opportunities to connect students with their guests so they can communicate back and forth to the benefit of both populations.
The families of Laurels guests can rest assured that social distancing is being diligently observed within the facility for the protection of guests. “For example, we’re serving all meals as well as coffee and doughnuts in guests’ rooms. To help keep guests engaged, we’re bringing items like coloring books, magazines, word searches, and crafts to their rooms, and in the afternoons, Page plays different music selections through the overhead speaker system for guests to enjoy. One of the most popular activities right now is hallway bingo, which, as the name suggests, is played out in the hallway with everyone remaining at a safe distance,” Wortketter says.
According to Wortketter, guests have been holding up well and staying in relatively good spirits despite the COVID-19 crisis. Still, there are emotionally poignant moments. She recalls one guest who broke down in tears after the staff helped her connect virtually with her daughter because she was so happy to see her face.
Of course, the current crisis is challenging—both physically and emotionally—for the Laurels staff as well. “I definitely work with some serious healthcare heroes,” states Wortketter. “They’re working long hours and very tired, but they never lose focus on keeping guests safe. They have to make serious decisions in terms of how to help our guests, and the protocols change daily. In order to stay on top of the latest changes, they have to take in a lot of information and adapt constantly.”
As a company, The Laurels is doing a variety of things to keep employees’ spirits up, for example offering appreciation lunches and keeping snacks and goodies on hand for them. In addition, there will soon be a large banner at the front of the facility urging people passing by to “Honk for our healthcare heroes.” However, these gestures don’t come close to conveying Wortketter’s gratitude. “I’m so proud of the tireless efforts and dedication our staff has shown throughout this crisis. I can’t thank them enough for all they do,” she says.
The Laurels of Toledo accepts Medicare, Medicaid, and all private commercial insurances. A physician’s order is required to obtain outpatient services. For more information, call 419-536-7600 or visit www.laurelsoftoledo.com.