Keeping residents happy and healthy is first and foremost in any skilled care center. It is even more important during the current COVID-19 health crisis. Some of the unsung health care heroes in this unprecedented time are those working in skilled care centers where they are not only tasked with the health issues but also addressing the social and emotional impact of the quarantine environment.

A weeklong observance established by the American Health Care Association (AHCA) in 1967 to recognize the essential role of skilled nursing care centers throughout the country could not have happened at a better time in 2020 for residents and staff members of SKLD Defiance.

“It Is National Nursing Home Week, and we are having a blast,” said Dawn Ludwig, admissions director. The celebration began May 10 and ends today.

The Defiance facility has been “Fired Up for Nursing Home Week,” and Camp SKLD is where all the fun has been happening. Among the activities enjoyed by residents have been fishing for snacks, happy camper day (think roasted marshmallows) and national chicken dance day. Staff participated in a “decorate your mask” day. On a more serious note, Rev. David Brobston of St. Paul Lutheran Church gave a blessing for all staff and residents from the parking lot. He was joined by some staff and residents — with masks and social distancing in place.

Ludwig explained that the facility is doing everything possible to stay COVID free. In addition to the testing of employees, SKLD has restricted all visitors since mid-March. Delivery of food, flowers, or other gifts, as well as the routine deliveries happen outside, and a staff member takes those into the facility. Even the mail is dropped at the front door to be sanitized.

Not having those family and friend visits, nor seeing the daily routines, can make the days long and lonely for the residents. And for those residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s, the change in routine can be even more disorienting. They do not understand why their loved ones are not visiting.

Staff members are being creative in trying to meet those needs, keeping residents busy and the atmosphere more upbeat, while observing the extra health and safety protocols such as social distancing.

For instance, Happy “Quaran-Cream” happens every Wednesday with activities director Danita Tyrrell dishing out a different flavor of ice cream each week. When the weather cooperates, the residents can enjoy the outdoor patios. Receiving mail and unexpected gifts also brightens an ordinary day.

Birthdays have been celebrated with window visits and social media, and one with a birthday parade. Emails can be sent and printed out for them.

Keeping families informed and up-to-date is crucial now. Ludwig said she knows that families are worried. It is an emotional subject for her.

“We are worried, too. The risk is high. We are in tight quarters. We not only worry about keeping our residents safe, but we also worry about what we could take home to our families. But we come to work because we love your loved one, too. We work to make sure your loved one is as happy and content as they can be during these uncertain times. We’re reassuring confused patients and trying to calm the fears of the ones who understand what is going on out there and are as scared as we are.”

SKLD is one of six Defiance County skilled care/assisted living facilities. To date, there are no COVID-19 cases reported in any of the facilities. Defiance has three skilled care facilities: SKLD, The Laurels and Brookview; and two assisted living facilities: Kingsbury House and GlennPark. Hicksville has one skilled care center: Hickory Creek.

The outpouring of support for the residents and staff members has been much appreciated by all of the facilities. For those who would still like to help, here are some suggestions.

For the staff:

• food and beverages such as pizza, subs, snacks, treats, coffee, k-cups, soda, energy drinks

• stress relief products (lotions, essential oils, sky is the limit)

• flowers for inside or outside landscaping

• hand sanitizer and Lysol/Clorox wipes

• virtual talents such as helping to lead mediation/yoga for staff

• cards of encouragement

For the residents:

• cards, letters, children’s artwork

• craft/art supplies

• writing supplies

• toiletries such as lip balm, lotions, soaps

• smaller blankets, lap robes

• bingo prizes

• virtual talents, maybe a recorded concert for them to watch

• parking lot concert

• décor such as a wreath

• check with facilities for specific needs

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