Social contact ‘best medicine’ at Center

Creswell Health and Rehabilitation resident Jeanne Thompson visits the classroom display at Creswell Museum, accompanied by Creswell Area Historical Society member Linda Franklin during a past outing to the museum. ARCHIVE PHOTO

People with older family members in long-term care centers such as Creswell Health and Rehabilitation Center (CHRC) may be concerned about their loved one’s risk of illness from COVID-19.

The visitor resrictions might have an unintended side effect: a higher incidence of depression and anxiety.

Particularly for seniors, recent studies indicate, the loneliness, depression, stress and anxiety that attend prolonged isolation carry not only emotional/psychological but physical/medical risks, including a decline in cognitive function, decreased ability to fight inflammation and infection and changes in white blood cells.

With its facility closed to visitors, the dining room closed, group activities deferred and residents mostly staying in their own rooms, CHRC activity director Danielle Goins has had to get creative to combat this second potential “pandemic” of loneliness and isolation.

She has organized in-room exercises and games such as trivia, tic-tac-toe, Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, as well as beading, art, pottery and other crafts.

“I still make a calendar and try to go with what’s planned in some way,” Goins said. “The residents are used to going somewhere each week, so this gives them something else to do.”

Goins said about one-third to half of the residents are able and interested in participating in some of these activities; she also reads aloud to those who enjoy it.

Residents are still getting some fresh air, too: “On nicer days we’ve done one or two people outside on the patio, had some lunches outside and done some gardening and barbecues, maintaining social distance,” Goins said. “For Easter, our maintenance director dressed up as the Easter Bunny and passed some candy out to residents and we had cupcakes. It’s been a little challenging, but we’re doing as much as we can.”

Children attending Creswell Christian Child Care Center (5Cs) even reached out to brighten residents’ days. “The kids painted a bunch of pictures for us and brought them over for us to hang around the place,” Goins said.

Three days per week, residents are also assisted in contacting their families via phone or video chat. Some local family members even stand outside the window to socialize with their loved one, poignantly separated by that piece of glass.

These window and virtual family visits can literally be a lifeline, Goins said.

“Some of our residents are starting to feel like they’ve been left, because they’re used to family coming to see them almost every day – and for some, their cognition changes day to day, so sometimes they understand why things have changed right now and sometimes they don’t,” Goins said. “But as soon as they see their family or hear their voice, it usually helps a lot.”

One way or another, Goins said she and/or her assistant activity director make contact with every resident, every day.

“It’s been very challenging the past few weeks as residents are starting to feel cooped up and getting restless, but we’re still trying to keep as much normalcy as possible for them,” Goins said. “Most of them seem to enjoy that.”



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