Care homes adjust to help residents keep socializing

Socializing at long term care homes when safety is a concern because of cornoavirus can be a challenge, but local facilities are getting creative.

“I know we can’t replace their families but we are trying to do everything to make it comfortable for them.” Vickie Atkinson, activities director of Oil City Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center, said.

Atkinson said physical health is important for seniors, but it’s important to consider socialization too, which is something that has become a challenge because of the current visitation restrictions at the facilities.

“We are doing our best, our very best. I know they miss their families but we are doing our best to keep them in touch with their families,” Atkinson said.

Some ways that local care facilities are keeping families connected include phone calls, letters, video messaging and glass separated visits that include either a set-up station or closed windows.

“We have a station set up in our lobby areas and use walkie-talkies to have them talk to each other,” Brandy Felmlee, director of social services at The Caring Place in Franklin, said.

“It’s not the same as contact of course, but they are certainly overjoyed to see their families,” Felmlee said.

Spacing out the seniors has become an ongoing factor to regularly scheduled events.

“You haven’t seen anything till you have seen hallway bingo,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson said the six feet separations have created an interesting dynamic to socializing seniors.

Along with social distancing events, some new activities have been created at the care facilities.

“We actually went out and bought RC cars and had races up and down the hallway,” Felmlee said.

While there’s fun and games, seniors still face a change to their daily lives.

“We can’t do communal dining or activities so they have to eat in their rooms,” Felmlee said. “We have a chapel where we can fit people in and space them six feet apart while they eat, but it’s not the same to them.”

“Our residents just miss the social contact and just being near each other,” Felmlee said. “A lot of them are huggers and they can’t do that.”

Residents were able to enjoy some Easter weekend activities.

A social distancing Easter egg hunt was held Friday at The Caring Place.

And at the Oil City center, Atkinson said the residents colored Easter eggs and put them in the windows for people driving by.