As health concerns surrounding elder loneliness continue to grow amid COVID-19, many senior living facilities have risen to the occasion, adapting existing activities to adhere to new regulatory measures, as well as innovating to create new ways for seniors to stay close to loved ones despite the prescribed distance.
Hubbard Hill Living Wisdom Community
(Hubbard Hill), a senior living facility in Elkhart, Indiana, is home to a dedicated staff that strives to not only know, but to understand its residents. As COVID-19 disrupted traditional approaches to care at the facility, Hubbard Hill drew on their pre-existing understanding of residents, assessing their needs and wants, likes and dislikes, and embarked on a mission with a familiar destination but a different route. “We’ve maintained our ongoing approach during COVID-19,” says Tim Henke, Director of Wellness and Associate Chaplain. “Know our residents, know their needs, and bring them joy, regardless of the circumstance, meeting them where they are.”
Creating joy amid COVID-19
For the staff at Hubbard Hill, continuing to engage residents in normal activities despite the abnormality of the situation is top priority. With many residents longing for days at the salon, staff repurposed an area of the facility into a temporary beauty parlor, complete with curling irons and hairspray, nail and toe polish in a rainbow of shades.
To ensure holidays and special occasions continue to hold meaning, staff brainstormed creative ideas for celebrations. Over Mother’s Day weekend, Hubbard Hill hosted a Photo Opp Day, turning the dining room into a photo studio. Tables were covered with boas and hats, sunglasses and wigs. While the residents initially were reserved, soon enough the spirit of the day caught and personalities emerged.
Maintaining closeness despite social distancing
In addition to looking good, staff want to ensure that residents feel good, too, that they maintain connectivity with family and friends despite the distance between them. To support this connection, staff facilitates FaceTime, Skype and Zoom calls, Facebook Live sessions and photo-sharing. While some residents enthusiastically embrace these modes of communication, others have visual or auditory impairments that limit interaction. To overcome these challenges, staff meet residents at their need level, facilitating communication via whichever mode best suits the specific resident.
While Hubbard Hill tackles emotional connectivity through technology, the staff has used a similar approach to physical activity. With group activities no longer possible, staff implemented virtual classes so residents could safely engage in activity from their rooms. These virtual lessons include exercise classes, as well as activities like drumming. As staff walk the halls, their steps are echoed by the beat of a collective drum, a unified rhythm that persists despite resident separation.
Advice for other senior living communities
Hubbard Hill encourages other facilities to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all pattern for senior care; you need to be hands-on with each and every individual, to assess each resident’s needs as a team and discover best practices.
Henke also encourages other facilities to remember that this generation is the doer, the mover generation. For this age group, feelings of limited capabilities can lead to depression and discouragement. Henke adds that, when resident’s abilities are failing them, it is the staff’s job to bridge that gap in perception, to encourage residents to rejoice in what they are still capable of.
For the inspired team at Hubbard Hill, adjusting to the new realities surrounding care during COVID-19 was a challenge, but one they were ready to meet. Given the staff’s deep understanding of each resident, Hubbard Hill was able to recalibrate individual needs to suit the demands of new regulations, taking a different route to a familiar destination.