PAYNE — Since mid-March of 2020, nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Ohio have been forced to deal with a state-mandated virtual lockdown of residents. This was all necessary due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus and the disproportionate impact it has on the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.

“We have had restricted visitation at our assisted living facility since March 13, 2020 — I have that date posted on my door,” said Marty Bradford, administrator of Vancrest of Payne assisted living.

While most person-to-person visits have been curbed at her location, Bradford noted they still have visitors in the building most days.

“The state guidelines are, if we are dealing with a situation of compassion, the resident can have family come in,” said Bradford. “If a resident just moved in and they were used to living with a spouse or a son or daughter, and they are not coping well, the family can come in for a set amount of time the state tells us. The same with their clergy members.

“So, we have families in our facility almost every day. They have to make an appointment, check in and answer some questions, put on a gown and face mask, and then we have to time their visit.’

While Vancrest of Payne has not experienced a single COVID-related death, the pandemic has still taken a toll on residents, primarily due to isolation.

“We have had several deaths, in my opinion, due to the lack of contact with their family,” said Bradford. “I think you would get that same answer from any (nursing facility) administrator you call.

“It has been incredibly hard on our residents,” added Bradford. “I have had residents say they want to crawl out their window, find someone with COVID, and hug them for 20 minutes straight so they can get it and get this over with. Because I’d rather have that than not be able to see my family.”

The staff at Vancrest of Payne receives high marks from Bradford for how they have risen to the occasion during this past year.

“Our staff has been amazing. We haven’t had one staff member quit and they have really rallied and made these residents like family,” said Bradford.

Along with timed, in-person visits in extreme situations, Vancrest has incorporated many ways to facilitate communication between residents and their friends and family.

“We help residents Facetime with iPads. We’ve used walkie talkies, outdoor visits and window visits,” said Bradford. “We have even set up three- and four-way conference calls so that family members can be there during doctors appointments for our residents.”

The staff and residents of Vancrest have nearly completed their second round of vaccinations and Bradford said that about 95% of residents have opted to receive the vaccine.

While the pandemic and lockdown has been trying for all of us, Bradford feels the staff at Vancrest has gone above and beyond for the residents.

“We decided from the get-go ... we have to find a way to make this positive for the residents because this is some of their last stopping points and we don’t want their last stopping point to be memories of being locked up and closed in. So we make it happy, and if that means doing a cartwheel in the hallway in front of their room or going ouside and making a snowman in front of their window ... that’s what we’ll do.’’

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