Slowly but surely, businesses and other institutions around Northeast Ohio are beginning to open up after being shut down for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although there are still many restrictions and protocols, many senior living communities have opened their doors to visitors and family members.
Carolyn Lookabill, director of sales and marketing at Lantern of Chagrin Valley in South Russell; and Kelly Rose-Stallard, director of business development and marketing at Danbury Senior Living in Broadview Heights, said it has been exciting to have family members of their residents come back and visit.
In following the Ohio Department of Health guidelines, Danbury opened its facility to visitors in late March with some new social distancing protocols. Although no appointments are necessary to come in, family members are still subject to temperature checks and symptom screenings.
“Definitely have a mask, and if someone doesn’t have a mask, we do have masks that we could provide,” Rose-Stallard said. “If anyone’s having any symptoms, definitely stay home, get better and then come join us at another time. And then of course we’re always implementing the usage of hand sanitizer. After visitors leave, we sanitize their areas. It’s kind of the same it’s been at most places that people go; just have to be mindful.”
Lantern also opened up for visitors about a month ago. It requires guests to make appointments before visiting and visitors are personally escorted to the suite of their loved ones. Fresh masks are also provided at check-in for those who need one.
Lookabill said open and face-to-face visitation has made a real difference for several reasons.
“Things are familiar, the family connection is there, the family members can see the residents in their own environment,” she said. “They can make sure that everything looks good, like the laundry being done. All the things that are concerns for family members, they’re making sure that the care is being provided, and they’re able to see their loved one again in their own environment. So it’s much more relaxing. The families have told us ‘just being able to see my mother in her apartment, and see how well she’s doing, that’s my peace of mind.’”
Lookabill said it was challenging to have the community shut down to visitors for so long, and reopening for family members has injected new feelings of excitement for the community as a whole.
“Loneliness and isolation are as much of a risk factor in a senior living community as physical health conditions,” she said. “Being able to open up visitation has not only been a plus for the physical health, but also for the mental health and quality of life for not only the residents and their families, but also the employees. As employees, we like to see our families together. It has meant a world of difference.”
Rose-Stallard said the sense of community at Danbury of having family members back in the building has reinvigorated that community feeling.
“Our families are such a big part of that,” she said. “So, seeing our residents talking with their families, sharing laughter and smiles, and then of course the families being able to interact with our staff again. We build great bonding relationships and have a great sense of community throughout Danbury. So it’s been wonderful for all of us. You’ve lived in this world for the past year, so you know how important social interaction is for friends and family.”
Rose-Stallard said the entire staff is also appreciative for the patience families exhibited during a year of such uncertainty.
“Our gratitude to our families and team members is just incredible,” Rose-Stallard said. “Especially their patience and support they’ve freely given us this last year. It’s just been so challenging for ourselves, and we’re just very grateful to see our residents and join their families again.”