Kathy Kelly had something to look forward to Sunday morning as cars lined up outside the retirement home where she lives on the South Hill.
The cars were decorated with signs, balloons and “little doo-dads,” and full of families waving at their loved ones who have been quarantined inside the care facility, said Kelly, 78.
“Wasn’t that just something else? That was huge. I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
The past few weeks leading up to Mother’s Day have been difficult for many of the 283 residents living at the facility, said Touchmark Life Enrichment Director Jennifer Crutcher. Staff members have done what they can to cheer up residents, she said.
Accustomed to large gatherings with children, grandchildren and other relatives, families have had to make do with video calls or a brief wave through a window. The parade of cars was a chance for residents to see their families in person, if only for a moment.
“The idea of the parade was to get eyes on family, because there’s really nothing like it,” Crutcher said.
Crutcher said some residents have taken isolation in stride, participating in video calls and asking staff members how they’re doing. She said some have also used video calls to connect with great-grandchildren and extended family members, many of whom they normally wouldn’t see.
“They’re handling it like champs,” she said. “They really are, and I think we can learn a lot from how they handled this, as a younger generation.”
For Kelly, the parade was a chance to be outside and chat with just about everyone.
“I had so much fun talking to the cars,” she said. “It was delightful in the sunlight.”
Kelly said she visited Touchmark for the first time about a year ago and knew she wanted to move in immediately. It’s the first time Kelly has lived in an apartment.
“They just baby us,” she said with a laugh. “It couldn’t be better. Like this thing today, all day long they’re going to have surprises and gifts.”
The best part of quarantine, Kelly said, is being treated to boozy libations twice a week. Last week residents had margaritas and wine, and on Sunday she was looking forward to a special Mother’s Day cocktail.
“It’s pretty swell,” she said.
A few of Kelly’s five children and 10 grandchildren participated in the parade Sunday. She said it was great to see them in person; lately they have been using FaceTime or chatting from a distance.
“I’m a very touchy, huggy person, and I just miss that from the kids,” Kelly said. “It’s just not right, but it will pass and everything will get back to what will be the new normal. I’m not getting antsy. It is what it is.”
Touchmark’s drive-past Mother’s Day celebration was one of several events at local nursing, assisted living and retirement homes.
Mary Laabs, activity director for the Holman Gardens retirement home in Spokane Valley, said many residents have been struggling with depression due to a lack of visitors and activities.
Residents normally have visits from family around this time, or visit each other, Laabs said. They play games like Wii Bowling together, or spend much of their time in the facility’s library or computer lab emailing loved ones.
Normally, there is also a Mother’s Day breakfast that families are invited to attend, but that was canceled this year. Instead, employees toured the facility making ice cream sundaes for all the residents, and mothers each received a bouquet of flowers.
Laabs said she hoped the festivities would be a change of pace and give residents something positive to look forward to.
“We’re trying to keep them motivated,” she said.
Delores Clark, 85, said the quarantine has been “frustrating,” but the staff has waited on residents “hand and foot,” making things easier.
Clark has two children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren who have come to visit her from a distance.
Laabs said family members of many residents had been stopping by, having physically distant conversations, but they can’t enter the facility as they normally do.
For 79-year-old Eunice Pangburn, it was a big weekend. Her birthday was Saturday.
She was thrilled to get her special ice cream sundae, just one of many treats Pangburn said the staff has come up with lately.
“I thought it was fantastic, but then they do so many great things here that it’s not really a big surprise,” Pangburn said.
Vanessa Johnson, head chef at Holman Gardens, said she has been creating fancy Sunday dinners for residents. Employees drop off the meals outside residents’ doors and walk away after knocking, she said.
Laabs said common areas like the library, the computer room and the room where residents play Wii Bowling will reopen next week. The facility will require social distancing and limit the number of people in each space.
For Pangburn, next week and the chance to socialize couldn’t come soon enough.
“I just want to be back out with people and talk and visit,” she said.
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