Assisted living residents feeling positive effects of vaccines

Residents of assisted living facilities are now welcoming their families into their homes after nearly a year of outside visits, window chats and drive-by waves.

System Director for McDowell Place of Danville Susan Matherly said they began allowing indoor visits on Feb. 24 for residents, “and it was wonderful! It has been a year since we had to begin restricting visitation, so family members being able to visit in a resident’s apartment was long overdue.”

And with the public’s vaccine roll-out, Matherly said they were receiving calls to schedule visits almost a month out, in anticipation of receiving their vaccine.

But no hugs allowed.

The resident must have completed a COVID-19 vaccination. And the visitor must provide documentation of completing their vaccination schedule or proof of a negative COVID-19 test result within three days of the visit.

Matherly said other state guidelines include, “Personal protection equipment must be worn by both the resident and family member at all times; social distancing must be maintained; visits must be scheduled ahead of time; and the visitor is escorted to and from the resident’s apartment.”

Even though hugs are still not permitted, “I think the residents and families are very pleased that we are able to offer indoor visitation now. It really has brightened everyone’s mood, including the staff, and has given them something to look forward to.”

Matherly added, “I think everyone sees this change as a positive step in moving past the pandemic as a whole and establishing a new ‘normal’ for our setting.”

Friday afternoon, Anna Reid was sitting in her comfy recliner and was chatting with her daughter-in-law Yvonne Reid and granddaughter Lauren Reid in her apartment at McDowell Place. Anna’s son Steven, and her grandson, were coming from Georgia, and her daughter was coming from Florida to visit on Saturday.

“Well, I like this better,” Anna said as she adjusted her face mask. “I hate these things, but it’s a small price to pay,” to be able to catch up with her family in her own home. “I was so tickled to see them!”

She hadn’t seen Lauren in more than a year. Yvonne and Steven hadn’t been able to visit in person since August, she said.

And now they’re all able to be together because of the vaccine.

Anna said she is still recovering from having the coronavirus. “It was the awfullest stuff I ever had.” However she didn’t have to be hospitalized because her oxygen level remained high, she didn’t have a fever, she wasn’t coughing and she was able to breathe. However, “It made me so weak. I had to use both hands to hold my coffee cup up to my mouth.”

Yvonne said, “We’re very thankful for her to have gotten better and survived it.” And now she’s having lots of visitors, she added.

Having family come to her home “Is wonderful. It’s really a big step ahead,” Anna said.

Plus the residents are now allowed to eat in the dining room together, although still socially distanced, and pick up their mail instead of having it delivered to their rooms. “It’s a lot better. It’s getting there. It might be close to normal,” Anna said. But she’s still apprehensive. “I honestly don’t think it will ever be normal.”

Morning Pointe of Danville’s Life Enrichment Director Nicole Walton said their residents’ attitudes “have been lifted for sure. They’re happy and excited.”

Since being vaccinated, the residents “Seem to have less of a fear and are anxious to get together each day. They have grown together and become closer friends. They have almost been forced to learn about each other through the quarantine,” Walton said.

And the family members “are very anxious to get vaccinated to get back in,” Walton said.

Outdoor visits have been allowed throughout the pandemic, Matherly said. And during the colder weeks, they had many families and residents take advantage of McDowell Place’s outdoor tent and heater just so they could visit.

“We anticipate more indoor visitors as more friends and family members receive their vaccines,” Matherly said.

She added, “Having interactions with loved ones has always been important in the lives of our residents. Since the pandemic began, most of these interactions have been limited to phone calls or an occasional visit outside. Residents being able to welcome family into their home” is wonderful. It helps to increase their feelings of self worth, boosts their mood and increases their overall quality of life.”