Nursing homes get creative to connect residents with families – Wooster Daily Record

West View Healthy Living delivered plenty of smiles to its residents earlier this month when it hosted the first drive-up visits for families to see their loved ones since the state banned visitors from long-term care facilities.

Drive-up visits, the idea of West Views Life Enrichment Director Debbie Williams, allows families to see their loved ones in person. Residents sit outside the main door and their families drive up for 15-minute visits while practicing social distancing.

Nursing homes across the area are finding new and creative ways to keep their residents connected to family during the coronavirus pandemic. Other facilities are offering window visits, connecting residents through Facetime and Zoom calls, and providing regular updates on their Facebook pages.

"Its been hard. Residents are isolated from families. Isolated from their friends. Theyve been hit twice," said Mindy Scurlock, director of housing at Brethren Care Village in Ashland.

COVID-19 also has hit long-term care facilities especially hard. The number of cases in these facilities makes up at least 21% of the states cases, and deaths from the facilities account for at least 41% of the states total.

As of May 13, the Ohio Department of Health was reporting 35 of Wayne Countys 48 total deaths were from COVID-19 cases in the countys long-term care facilities. Holmes County had its only reported death from a nursing home. Ashland County had no reported deaths.

In Wayne County, 84 total cases of COVID-19 were reported inlong-term care facilities since April 15. All of the cases are at Smithville Western Care Center 60 cases among residents, and 24 cases among the staff.Since the state began counting cases in March, Wayne has tallied 202 cases overall.

Ashland and Holmes have reported no cases in nursing homes since April 15. On Monday, the state reported 15 cumulative cases in Ashland and 13 cases in Holmes.

Rhonda Geer of Ashland was used to regular visits with her parents Ron and Beverly Bolton at Belmont Towers, the assisted living facility at Brethren Care. She would chat with them in their room, enjoy lunch together, and give them lots of hugs. The family must now speak through a window, Geer on one side, her parents on the other no hugs allowed.

"I have a very close relationship with my parents so its been difficult," Geer said.

She credited the staff at Brethren Care for making it a little easier during the lockdown. They have helped complete tasks she would usually handle such as her parents laundry, sorting their medication, and taking them to doctors appointments.

"All the things I would do, theyre doing," Geer said. "They go the extra mile to help our families then go home to help their own families."

Thinking outside the box

Steve Miller of Wooster also appreciates the assistance provided by the staff at the Wayne County Care Center, which helps to facilitate Facetime calls with his father William "Bill" Miller. His father previously suffered hallucinations revolving around windows, a side effect of his Parkinsons disease, and Steve Miller felt it best to avoid window-side visits.

The county care center recently applied for a grant through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to purchase more iPads and Bluetooth devices so more residents can communicate with their families throughout the day. The federal agency is making funds available to provide communication technology to nursing home facilities and not requiring repayment.

Another way nursing homes are keeping families updated is on Facebook, sharing photos and videos of their loved ones enjoying activities still occurring inside the facility.

Altercare Majora Lane in Millersburg recently hosted Mohawk Valley Farm, which brought "fun and funny" alpacas to visit each resident at the window, according to Kayla Maurer, a spokeswoman for Altercare Integrated Health Services. The nursing home also had drive-up visits for families to celebrate Mothers Day.

"Our teams continue to think outside of the box for resident activities to keep them engaged and entertained. We understand how challenging these times can be and for that our team is taking special care and thought into making sure opportunities for engagement are creative and plentiful," Maurer said.

The Good Shepherd Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation in Ashland, operated by Lutheran Social Services, asked the community for cards and letters to lift the spirits of its residents. Each resident has received at least three letters, coloring pages, or cards from strangers, and the facility tries to respond to as many as it can.

"I can see pen pals in the future," said Terry McQuillen, director of life enrichment and volunteer coordinator at LSS The Good Shepherd.

The Good Shepherd, West View, and Brethren Care have faith services and other entertainment streaming directly to televisions in residents rooms. The Wayne County Care Center keeps its residents entertained with themed days, providing special meals and treats, and the staff dresses to correspond with the theme.

Reporter Emily Morgan can be reached at 330-287-1632 or

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Nursing homes get creative to connect residents with families - Wooster Daily Record

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