As spring 2020 approached, most of us were expecting things to go a certain way. Residents from all over the Wesbury Community were looking forward to more outings after the winter kept us mostly indoors. Wesbury staff was planning their spring and summer vacations. The Wesbury travelers were getting ready to take an epic trip to Italy. Wesbury Life Enrichment was planning its Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon, and The Wesbury Foundation was preparing for its annual Sunset Auxiliary Key Person Luncheon. By mid-March, everything changed, and all of those things were either put on hold or cancelled.
It was Friday, March 13th when Wesbury restricted all visitations to Cribbs Residential Center and Grace Rehabilitation and Health Center to protect residents and staff from the extremely contagious coronavirus (COVID-19). The restrictions included visitations from residents living on the Wesbury campus at Thoburn Village. No one could gather for activities, go on group outings, or meet with their loved ones. Immediately, we had to look for different ways to do the things we would typically be doing.
Keeping families and their loved ones in communication was paramount. Family members want to see for themselves that their loved ones are safe and doing well, so we started planning for ways to make that happen. Wesbury’s Information Technology Department set up iPads for activities staff to make appointments and assist residents with Skype and FaceTime visits. Next, a protocol was created to allow for “Window Visit” appointments where family members could go to a designated window and visit by using a phone while seeing each other through a glass partition. We were able to do this until the PA Stay at Home Order did not allow for the visits, but opened them back up as soon as the order was lifted for Crawford County.
We began using Wesbury’s Channel 900, our in-house cable channel, to do programming like daily exercise, weekly devotions, and live virtual activities. Through the distribution of our Campus Connections newsletter, we provided residents of Cribbs and Thoburn Village with Bingo cards so we could play “Credit Bingo.” As activities staff pulled bingo numbers live on 900, residents could call in with their wins and ultimately build up credits for prizes at the end of the month.
Grace Rehabilitation and Health Center’s Life Enrichment took to social media in creative ways that were recognized throughout our local media. They put up posts on Wesbury’s Facebook page of residents holding a whiteboard and sharing humorous messages that went viral. Some of the photos had residents saying they wanted to trade snacks for toilet paper or to send more wine, while others had heartwarming messages of being okay and missing their family. The first posts were shared more than 30,000 times and reached more than two million people worldwide. We received messages of “thanks for brightening our day” and “we want to connect with you” from as far away as Australia and Tunisia.
Grace resident Dolores Reichel’s talents for being a quilter and seamstress are well-known at Wesbury. Her whiteboard photo featured Dolores asking if Joann Fabrics delivered. Her message was received by Lori Campbell-Lewis of Clarksville, Tennessee, who saw the post saying it “tugged at her heart.” Lori sent Dolores a care package of fabrics she bought at a Joann. Dolores promptly made masks to send back to Tennessee.
For residents of Thoburn Village, things were much different. They live independently and are a social group who like to get together for pot lucks and games at the Clubhouse, which has been closed since this all began. For them, it was easy to suddenly feel isolated, but their area Good Neighbors tried to alleviate those feelings as much as possible by making calls to check on their neighbors to offer help or just chat. At one point, residents came out of their villas and apartments to find little garden gnomes on their patios, mysteriously placed overnight by someone just saying we are thinking about you. The residents found this gesture to be so cute; it was shared with the Meadville Tribune, who reported it as some good news during the coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to the new dog park and some better weather, residents have been able to meet up outside while socially distancing themselves.
For staff, it was different, and many had to step outside their regular work duties. Transportation, Pharmacy, and Help at Home staff were now screening and taking temperatures of employees coming to work every day. Marketing and Dietary helped to make sure Cribbs residents were six feet apart, got on the elevator, and cleaned all the railing and chairs as residents made their way outside for a walk and some fresh air. Staff from the Foundation and Beauty Shop helped out by cleaning the common areas of Grace Rehabilitation and Health Center, and many employees from across the spectrum volunteered to be trained to help with feeding residents at Grace who could not feed themselves.