As spring 2020 approached, most of us were expecting things to go a certain way. For all of us, it did not. We spent the rest of the year in what was deemed as “the new normal” thanks to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. As you can imagine, for senior lifestyle and healthcare service organizations like Wesbury, the environment changed very quickly as cases of COVID-19 increased around the country, especially at nursing care facilities.
From the start, Wesbury faced restrictions and guidelines being put into place that were previously unprecedented. From Wesbury’s perspective, resident and staff safety was the number one priority as we made sure we followed the evolving guidance and direction from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), P.A. Department of Human Services (DHS), and P.A. Department of Health (DOH).
Early on, Wesbury continued activities and visitations that met all guidelines working diligently to ensure families and residents could stay connected through various safe avenues like virtual activities and video calls and, as restriction eased, offered socially distant visitations.
As we looked toward summer events, we weren’t sure how things would play out. Typically, it’s an extremely busy time at Wesbury, filled with festive outdoor activities and annual events. As things began to be canceled all around us, we began to consider how to maintain safety yet still raise the funds that many of our residents rely on. As the saying goes, “Where there is the will, there is the way.” The Wesbury Foundation went to work, modifying the normal, recreating the wheel, and made all of Wesbury’s traditional summer events possible.
Probably the most significant endeavor was to hold our 31st annual Chicken BBQ modified as a drive-thru take-out event for the safety of residents and guests. Going into the day, we didn’t know what to expect. It was overcast and humid as we donned our gloves, masks, and face shields. We had set up a safe process, advertised, and planned for 1,500 meals…would it be a success? It didn’t take long to find out. As staff arrived to take their places, it was immediately apparent that the response was tremendous. Cars began forming a line an hour before we scheduled to open and, through the day, waited as much as an hour and 45 minutes to purchase dinners at the minimal-contact pickup station. We sold out of Chicken BBQ dinners by 4:00 P.M. and couldn’t be more grateful for the love and support we received from the public. One supporter pulling in said, “I have been waiting for quite a while, but it’s worth it to help Wesbury because what you are doing for our seniors during this time is priceless.” That said it all.
As the weather began to get chilly, we had felt very good about keeping the virus out of the Wesbury community. For eight months, we had not seen a positive case. That changed at the end of October, starting with one staff positive case. As we all know, COVID-19 is extremely contagious, and the senior population is the most vulnerable. Through the end of 2020, as we saw cases rise throughout the region, there was an increase in positive cases among Wesbury residents and staff.
This was an extremely stressful time for Wesbury; for residents, for staff, and for families. For Wesbury staff, thank you is not enough for the extraordinary efforts that everyone put forth since COVID cases increased in the area. Even at the peak of the positive cases, the challenges that we experienced were never an impediment to what we were able to accomplish together – while keeping the care, comfort, and emotional well-being of Wesbury residents their highest priority.
After Wesbury had opened its COVID unit to care for positive residents, Wesbury and Meadville Medical Center (MMC) began a collaboration to benefit Wesbury residents, MMC patients, and support those in the community. Collaboratively, Wesbury and MMC are providing a service greatly needed to support families affected by the pandemic in our region. With the high county positivity rate, the hospital needed a facility where they could safely discharge recovering patients for extended care, freeing much-needed hospital space to meet the urgent demand for critical care and/or new patients. In return, MMC provided Wesbury with a multidisciplinary team that included the ability to consult with a Pulmonologist and the availability of onsite respiratory therapists, nurse practitioners, and infectious disease specialists, increasing the care that the COVID unit offers. This collaboration is directly in line with the mission of both organizations and is especially relevant to Wesbury’s 102-year-old Methodist roots, whose purpose was quoted by its founder, John Wesley.” “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, for all the people you can…”
We all know there will be a time when this pandemic is in the rearview, and we come out on the other side. We all hope that is sooner than later. When we look back, it will be because everyone decided to rise up and come together; supporting those they worked alongside that kept the Wesbury community as safe as humanly possible. Even amid this global pandemic, when the Department of Health came in for their annual inspection, they left Grace Rehabilitation and Health Center citing zero deficiencies. We also maintained a 5-star rating with the Centers for Medicaid and are ranked an impressive 7th Best Nursing Home in Pennsylvania, according to Newsweek’s Recent Best Nursing Homes 2021 Report. For the report, Newsweek partnered with the respected global data research firm Statista Inc. to establish a ranking of “Best Nursing Homes” by analyzing data from over 10,000 nursing homes in the U.S. The 400 “best” nursing homes in the 20 most populous states are published in the report.
Despite the focus on COVID-19, things did move forward in the arenas of Wesbury programs and services to the public, setting up some exciting things for 2021.
If you have driven past Meadville Dairy Queen on Rte. 322 (Conneaut Lake Road) and caught sight of the former Day’s Inn, you know that this corner has been taking on an exciting new look! This project is the region’s newest one and two-bedroom apartment complex designed for active seniors ages 55 and over. Owned and operated by Wesbury, Vernon Square’s Phase One, consisting of the pool, fitness center, lobby, and 15 apartments, is ready for move-in! Visit: www.vernonsquareapartments.com for more information.
Wesbury is optimistic about what the future holds. At the year’s start, many residents and staff consented to take the COVID-19 vaccine, a decision that will protect not only those in the Wesbury community but also those in the greater community.