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They’re willingly and productively wearing so many different hats, the communities are veritable haberdasheries.
As the current pandemic and subsequent lockdown defy description, so too do the roles of the staff at Friendship Senior Options senior living communities Friendship Village of Schaumburg and GreenFields of Geneva. With unprecedented restrictions and resulting needs, the associates have had to take on unprecedented responsibilities and have done so with great creativity and enthusiasm. “We’re so proud of how the associates have all stepped up to the plate. They are willing to do whatever it takes to keep the residents safe and well cared for,” said Tony Madl, executive director of GreenFields in Geneva.
Never before seen in the senior living communities, screeners are now the norm. Armed with digital thermometers and health questionnaires, every staff member is screened for illness before entering the building for their shift. Employees have been recruited to help as screeners, taking temperatures and charting information from their fellow associates as well as essential visitors to the community.
The lifestyles/life enrichment teams at both communities, who are accustomed to providing abundant programming to the residents, are still keeping activity calendars filled, but in a high-tech, social distancing kind of way. “Our in-house television station shares programming from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. every weekday,” said Jill Steco, life enrichment director at Friendship Village. “Not only are we providing the programming including fitness classes, arts and crafts, games, entertainment, and more, but we’re also videotaping and streaming the content. It’s working really well and keeping the residents engaged. It’s also keeping our staff very busy.”
Staff is actively helping to keep residents connected with their families, friends and loved ones as visitors to the communities are prohibited. In Willows Assisted Living, Reflections Memory Support, and Briarwood Healthcare, staff is facilitating frequent virtual visits via FaceTime, Skype and ZOOM. GreenFields has also initiated Family Fridays during which residents are brought to designated spaces in the healthcare parking lot, and scheduled family members can visit from their cars.
Deliveries have taken on new importance at the communities. As visitors, including delivery people, are prohibited from the buildings, items being brought to Friendship Village and GreenFields are being taken to the apartments by masked staff members. “Mother’s Day was especially busy with the delivery of flowers and gifts,” said Jill. “The residents, in general, are doing a lot more on-line ordering for a variety of items, and we’re happy to help them make their way to their apartments.”
In addition to items ordered are gifts and goodies provided by the staff. These include arts and crafts projects, ice cream, freshly baked treats, and more. “Our deliveries are helping to keep the spirits up of the residents,” said Karen Tomko, life enrichment manager at GreenFields. Karen is also delivering hand-written letters from neighbors of GreenFields in the innovative Pony Express pen pal program.
Also, being delivered at the communities are meals, prepared by the dining services team. Residents under normal circumstances will come down to the various dining venues to eat. With the dining rooms presently closed to promote social distancing, meals are being delivered to the individual apartments by a variety of staff members. Approximately 1,500 meals are prepared and delivered daily at Friendship Village, and 615 at GreenFields. That requires an enormous amount of manpower, which the associates willingly provide.
Within Briarwood Healthcare Center at GreenFields, life enrichment manager Julie Jug who runs programs and activities for the residents has found herself and her staff cutting and styling hair. “Hair grooming is part of the residents’ care plans, and since our salon is officially closed, we are cutting residents’ hair. This always makes someone look and feel better immediately, ” she said. "So far, we have all smiles."
Unprecedented times bring unprecedented responsibilities and opportunities. “Our teams of associates are really rising to the occasion, to ensure that the residents they love remain active, engaged, and safe,” concluded Jill.