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With a big heart, Naomi Hroncich was concerned about her neighbors at GreenFields senior living community of Geneva. With a background as a nurse and chaplain with clinical pastoral experience, she was well-suited to do something about her concerns.
During different phases of the pandemic, as residents of independent living at GreenFields were remaining within their apartments in the interest of staying safe, Hroncich was concerned about loneliness and isolation for those living by themselves. The staff was already putting in countless hours and abundant energy in keeping the residents healthy and as busy as possible. “But I realized that there are residents who lived alone, who were completely isolated aside from their meal deliveries and housekeeping services. I thought, ‘I want to do something about this,’ and so I developed and presented a proposal to management,” she said. The proposal resulted in Hroncich launching GreenFields’ resident outreach program. The volunteer residents regularly check in on and visit with their neighbors to ensure their continued well-being.
After recruiting her team of 16 volunteers from amongst her neighbors, Hroncich trained and prepared them for their responsibilities. The GreenFields leadership team, including the life enrichment manager, chaplain, life services manager, and the resident advisory council president, all came and talked about their roles and available amenities and services. They also spoke about the importance of the committee adhering to privacy concerns and HIPAA regulations while connecting with their neighbors.
“When the committee officially launched, we first wanted to make sure that everyone in independent living received a phone call during which they were asked if a volunteer could stop by and visit with them. During subsequent visits, we’d find out how everyone was doing and extend friendship and assistance if there were any problems,” Hroncich said. “If there were concerns, we’d report them to the appropriate staff person for whatever it was that we felt or observed.”
Hroncich explained, “We visited everyone who allowed us to, and some people have wanted regular visits again. We let them know we are anxious to help if they want or need anything. We visit as often as they like.”
The committee also delivers goodies to their neighbors, just knocking on doors and casually connecting through candy, cookies, homemade fudge, and more. “We held a contest for apartment doors for Christmas. Residents were encouraged to decorate their doors, and then we went around and videotaped the results and gave the participants a chance to say ‘Merry Christmas’ on tape. We broadcast that on our in-house TV channel. We also sponsored scavenger hunts, and we’re planning on delivering Easter bags.” When the dining team plans a special treat for the residents, Hroncich’s team “negotiates with them, so we can make the deliveries. That way, we’re always in touch. Even if residents don’t want us to visit, they’re always happy if we knock on the door and bring something.”
With many residents moving into the community during COVID, the committee members stepped in as mentors, taking their new neighbors on tours, sharing information, and making them feel comfortable and welcome.
With GreenFields cautiously reopening, Hroncich said the outreach community has remained ongoing. “The program is about friendship and meeting new people. If you want friendship, it’s here for you,” she said.
“I am not surprised, but always impressed with the residents at GreenFields and how eager they are to step in and help each other. The past year has been tough for everyone, but these volunteers helped to make their neighbors feel happy and cared for, and the staff certainly appreciated the extra support,” said Tony Madl, executive director of GreenFields.