By Jessie Wagoner
Stay-at-home orders have eased for the majority of our population; however, seniors residing in nursing homes and assisted living communities continue to be isolated. Visitor restrictions mean many seniors have had no face-to-face contact with their loved ones in months. In an effort to support seniors, the community has rallied and found creative ways to stay connected.
Parades have become a popular way for families and community members to show their support. Friday, a community parade was held at The Cedars. The McPherson Fire Department and Police Department joined approximately 60 vehicles who paraded through The Cedars, waving and honking to residents.
“I have several friends at The Cedars, and I miss them terribly,” Helen Traumel of McPherson said. “I told my daughter I’m coming out and honking up a storm. I want them to be able to hear me and see me so they know I’m still thinking of them.”
Residents of The Cedars lined up outside with cool water and plenty of smiles, waving to parade goers as they passed. Joyce Schmidt was one of the individuals who decorated her car for the parade. She says this is the second parade at The Cedars she has participated in and the fourth in total.
“I’ve been in two parades here and two at the nursing home in Topeka my mother is in,” Schmidt said. “I worry a lot about my mom and other residents who aren’t able to have personal contact with their families. I know my mom is sad. So I try to do as many things like this as I can to help her feel better.”
Letters to Seniors
Prairie View launched a special program called Letters to Seniors, which was developed by Dr. Satinder Mahal, director of older adult services at Prairie View. The program allows communication to continue to older adults who have been vulnerable to isolation like no other age group.
“All segments of the population benefit from connections and relationships as well as communication and interaction,” Patrick Flaming, RN, BSN, Director of Access Services at Prairie View, said. “This time has been difficult for everyone. However, with strict no visitation policies enforced at long-term care facilities, it has been an especially trying time for our seniors.”
Prairie View is asking for the public’s help in writing letters. Letters may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to Prairie View, Letters for Seniors, PO Box 467, Newton, KS 67114. If mailing a letter, please write in large print. Due to infection control concerns, all letters received will be distributed digitally.
Letter-writing do’s and don’ts
There are a few guidelines for those who participate.
•Do make the letter positive and uplifting.
•Do include positive stories and personal experiences from everyday life
•Do get creative! Artwork and poems are welcomed.
•Do not write the date on the letter.
•Do not add personal information such as address or phone number.
•Do not discuss polarizing subjects. Be sensitive that the reader of the letter may not share the same religious or political beliefs.
“The program allows our elders to know that they are still cared for and thought about and encourages them to know they are not alone,” Flaming said. “The program has even encouraged nursing home residents to write back to notes of encouragement to us.”
More seniors than ever before are utilizing technology to stay connected to their friends and family. They are using cell phones and tablets to video chat with family members, stream live activities like weddings, church services and gatherings and emailing with friends.
“My granny calls me on Facebook Messenger so she can see me and we can talk,” Logan Davis of McPherson said. “She even uses filters now and emojis. It’s pretty awesome.”
To address social isolation in response to the restrictions placed on visitors in nursing homes to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) is taking part in a CMS program that makes federally certified nursing homes eligible for funds to help purchase technology for residents. Eligible nursing homes can receive up to $3,000 in funds to purchase devices to enable residents to visit with family and friends in a virtual setting and participate in telehealth visits.
“I still want to hug my granny, but at least we can see each other on her tablet,” Davis said.