Creative ways senior communities connect loved ones during COVID-19

"We are giving them things to look forward to."
Creative ways senior communities connect loved ones with families
Posted at 7:29 PM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-20 11:59:44-04

SOUTHERN COLORADO — With coronavirus outbreaks sweeping some senior communities, visitors are no longer allowed inside, forcing families to miss out on valuable time with their loved ones. However, many facilities are finding creative ways to connect people, without risking the spread of COVID-19.

At Primrose Retirement Community of Pueblo, the health and well-being of residents is their top priority. Right now, only staff and other essential personnel are allowed inside the building. Families of hospice patients are accepted inside on a case by case basis. Those with Primrose said all of their staff is trained on controlling infections, and they are taking lots of measures to sanitize the building. "When the mail arrives, we spray it with a disinfectant, it has to dry before we even distribute the mail," said Rochelle Kelly Wristen, the director of sales and marketing for Primrose.

Primrose is also facilitating phone calls and video chats with residents and their family members. One of those residents is Peggy Blakely, who's daughter Lynne Brunjak said they used to get together at least once or twice a week. "It's hard for both me and my sister," said Brunjak.

But Primrose has done several other things for residents in addition to their video chats. They have held socially distant ice cream socials, happy hours, and even a coloring competition that Blakely won. "I think it's wonderful, because my mom is a very social person, so being locked in her room is very difficult for her," said Brunjak.

Wristen also said some families have found creative ways to see their loved ones. For instance, one family actually serenaded their loved one from outside of the facility. "We have family members that bring lawn chairs and they sit outside the windows. And you know, it's been so nice here, so they will sit outside the windows at the six foot distance and be able to have those conversations," said Wristen.

Meanwhile, at Legend of Broomfield, they are also setting up ways for residents to have virtual face-to-face calls with their families. "I know there's some guilt, because they can't come in and see their families," said Lila Fladwood, the life enrichment coordinator for Legend of Broomfield.

Fladwood also said she does hair cuts and styling, poker runs, and distributes magazines to the residents. "Room by room by room, and I have a cart, I bring the fun with me... We are giving them things to look forward to," said Fladwood.

News5 talked to one woman who's father is a resident at Legend of Broomfield. "Keeping the residents safe, and not having outsiders in there, we understand... We had a lot of laughter and a lot of tears doing Skype together, just seeing each other," said Gail Loveland, about getting to talk with her father, Al.

Loveland said it's important to continue making these connections while we can. "Unfortunately the deterioration in some of these seniors could happen, and the next time we see them, things might change... Don't be afraid to reach out, get whatever information you can at this point in time about your mother, father, grandparent," said Loveland.

Neither of the facilities News5 spoke with have had a case of COVID-19.