July 9, 2020

Resident Engagement in a Quarantine Environment

Ruth's House residents gardening in their masks

LONGMEADOW, MA (July 2020) –Social distancing requirements in nursing homes and assisted living residences present their own unique set of challenges during this pandemic. To address this, the staff at JGS Lifecare have been working hard to make sure the residents are engaged, active – and happy.

“We have implemented a variety of creative activities for our residents,” said Cheryl Gumlaw, Director of Life Enrichment at Leavitt Family Jewish Home. “Despite sheltering in place, our residents are staying active, both socially and physically. In fact, the pandemic has brought us closer together. There is a sense of camaraderie between the staff, residents and families that is very comforting.”

In terms of activities, a Zoom poetry group at Leavitt Family Jewish Home ​is ​a big hit. Each session is led by one of the residents and the poems span a  wide variety of subjects  and formats. Also high on the list: overhead bingo. Both residents and staff are given a strip of three cards. Numbers are called daily, with prizes given to every winner!

Staff members deliver games and reading materials directly to a resident’s room, including newspapers, magazines, crossword puzzles, word search puzzles, adult coloring, books, and anything else needed. In addition, one-on-one chats play a big part in promoting social engagement. “One of the most valuable gifts we can give our residents is the ability to listen. You’d be surprised how much a heartfelt conversation means to them,” said Gumlaw. Resident received wine fairy gift basket

Snacks delivered to each resident by staff members are a welcome diversion. Specialties include ice cream sandwiches, fudgsicles, popsicles, lemonade, milkshakes, root beer floats and iced tea. “Everyone looks forward to receiving a delicious summertime treat,” added Gumlaw. “It makes the day much more festive.”

Over at Ruth’s House, “Getting to Know You” bingo was a huge success in the beginning of the quarantine period. Residents asked staff questions about their lives when came into their room or saw them in the halls. The game served as an excellent conversation starter as well as an incentive  for the residents to exercise by walking the halls. Other current activities include bucketball, painting, gardening and planting flowers, virtual lectures that span a variety of topics and virtual musical concerts with a medley of hit songs requested by the residents.

“We are constantly finding new ways to socialize with our residents, making sure they stay active and engaged,“ said Andrea Bates, Life Enrichment Director at Ruth’s House Assisted Living. “Our goal is to continue offering our much-loved programs as well as embrace new forms of technology to keep our residents in close contact with their families. At the same time, our focus is to provide daily exercise and social interaction.”

Residents look forward to the activity cart that staff members take door-to-door to each resident’s room. The cart is a treasure trove of goodies such as word searches, crossword puzzles, Sudoku puzzles, coloring books and art projects. Take-out patio lunches allow the residents to enjoy the beautiful outdoor grounds as well as the summer weather.

Some of the residents have joined a Wine Fairy Group, which is a novel way to receive a gift basket from an anonymous “fairy” in the community. Residents request some of their favorite things such as wine, coffee, tea, food items, flowers or hand-made art. “This is a really fun experience for our residents,” said Bates “After all, who doesn’t like to receive a surprise gift?”

Bates noted that the staff has made it a priority to spend time alone with each resident. “Because group activities are limited, we are concentrating upon individual activities for each resident, whether it be taking a walk, playing cards or engaging in an art project.” Added Bates, “This one-on-one time together is very special — for us and for the residents.”