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She knew from personal experience that it was good, but not enough. Julie Jug is the life enrichment manager at Reflections Memory Support, Willows Assisted Living, and Briarwood Healthcare Center at GreenFields of Geneva. For the last two months, Julie and her team have worked creatively to help her residents connect with their family and friends while remaining within their apartments at the senior living community. Closely adhering to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), visitors to the community have been prohibited in order to keep the residents safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. To maintain connectivity, the life enrichment staff have scheduled virtual visits for the residents via Skype, ZOOM, and FaceTime.
Julie knows all too well that the technology helps close the distance a bit, but doesn’t make up for face-to-face encounters. As essential workers, she and her husband who also has a career in senior living, have both been going in to work every day since the Illinois lockdown order went into effect in March. Their young daughters’ school closed, and without daycare available, Julie’s mother graciously stepped in, caring for them in her home. In limiting their own exposure as well as that of their daughters and mother, Julie and her husband have connected with the girls primarily through technology and drive-by visits.
Julie decided to take advantage of the Chicago area’s spring-like weather two weeks ago as a way to enable in-person encounters between residents and their families. Through the Family Friday program, she scheduled each resident for a 15-minute visit in the GreenFields parking lot, with as many as three carloads of family members. The residents are brought out to a preassigned spot by a staff member who stays with them to facilitate the visit. The cars pull around the resident at a safe social distance, and the passengers roll down their windows to chat The family members are all masked and must remain in their cars but are encouraged to bring treats for the resident, which the staff will handle. “I thought of this way of visiting because it’s pretty much how I’ve seen my girls for the past two months. It makes me cry thinking about it. This is the first time the residents have actually seen their loved ones in weeks,” said Julie. She plans to continue the program weekly, weather-permitting.
“The residents and their families are so grateful for the program,” said Julie. “This is a note that I received from an adult daughter: ‘Omg, Julie, I am thrilled with this…Thank you so much for all you and everyone at Greenfields are doing for your residents and all of us.’” Julie added, “Moments like these make my heart explode.”