Tessa Johnson is a Registered Nurse with both bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees in nursing and is a certified dementia practitioner. She’s the Executive Director at CountryHouse Residence for Memory Care in Dickinson, North Dakota.
In senior living, and more specifically at CountryHouse, we always try to find the silver lining and look to create moments of joy in any situation that we are put in. Although faced with one of our biggest challenges yet in COVID-19, we’re delighted to report that we have found our silver lining amid a tough situation where we all know it’s hard to focus on the positives.
More One-on-One Time with Residents
How great is it that our staff get to spend more one on one time with our residents? It is a complete gift that we are asked to pray with them, to curl their hair, to put a puzzle together, to watch a movie and have a “girls night in” ALL while keeping them the safest that we possibly can. This situation has given us the ability to slow down, take a breath and connect with individuals more personally.
We’re Getting Creative About Making Connections
We’ve been able to offer alternative ways for residents to communicate with their loved ones whether they live down the street or across the country. We have made connections the old-fashioned way and with the help of technology. We have facilitated so many different types of visits including through our front door and through the window, to connect residents with their loved ones face-to-face. We typically give them a phone so they can chat easily. We have also done several different Facetime/Zoom/Skype calls. This is a great way for our residents to be able to see their loved ones and have a more personal conversation. We have also driven residents to their loved one’s homes. They get to chat through a car window and have another familiar connection. Currently, we have a resident who has a lady friend at our sister property, Evergreen. We have taken him over on the bus to see her through the window, have spoken via Facetime with her, and even went over to feed her bird feeder with her watching from the window. We’ve even helped couples write love notes. This, my friends, is creative courting!
We’ve Engaged Our Community At-Large
Another thing that we have done is not only bring happiness to our residents, but to our community as well! We are so proud to be part of such an amazing community that ALWAYS shows up for each other when we need to. Before we stopped taking daily bus rides, we made an announcement to our community asking them to hang a purple heart in order to let us know they were thinking of us. We had an overwhelming amount of purple hearts in our community of Dickinson and surrounding communities!! During our fresh air rides, we have enjoyed looking for them, seeing smiling faces and knowing that we are all in this together. When we had to stop bus rides, we invited the community to “Chalk our Walk”. This involved asking neighbors, friends and family members to bring chalk to decorate our sidewalks to surprise our residents and we made sure to encourage them to bring their own chalk and stay separated, keeping social distancing in mind. Again, we had a wonderful outpouring of support!
We’ve Brought Our Outings In-House
Because we’ve ceased daily outings in the interest of safety, we’ve gotten creative and brought the outings in-house! For National Beer Day, we partnered with a local brewer, Phat Fish Brewing, to borrow beer tasting supplies – rather than visiting the brewery, we had a tasting on our own! Instead of doing karaoke off-site, we made a traveling karaoke cart and visited residents in their individual rooms and asked them to give a performance. Attending the Stockmen’s Livestock Exchange is a frequent social event for our rancher that lives at CountryHouse. Since we have been staying in, this has been very difficult for him to miss. With the help of our friend Tyler Schoch, we were able to Facetime through a live auction!
During the last few weeks, we have changed, adjusted, readjusted and changed again. But just think, we are all that much closer and our team and residents all have had the opportunity to bond more intimately. Not only are we doing okay, we are more than okay! We have found many ways to continue to have joy, see the silver lining in a bad situation and continue to live our best lives! We encourage everybody to stay positive and to do the same! Stay safe, stay healthy, and if you can, stay home for seniors!