For three long months, the elderly residents at the Powell Valley Care Center and assisted living facility, The Heartland, have had limited means by which to see their loved ones. Last month, both …
For three long months, the elderly residents at the Powell Valley Care Center and assisted living facility, The Heartland, have had limited means by which to see their loved ones. Last month, both facilities began allowing scheduled outdoor visits with residents.
For the first time in a while, Maureen Mikeworth got to sit face-to-face with her mother, Kelly Mikeworth.
“It feels pretty good,” the younger Mikeworth said.
Powell’s facilities avoided coronavirus outbreaks by shutting down the facilities to visitors early on in the pandemic. It was a wise move. The elderly are among the most high-risk groups for complications and death from COVID-19. Nationwide, 42% of deaths have occurred at nursing homes and at least 65% of deaths in Wyoming have been from people 65 or older.
The outdoor visits still contain a lot of restrictions. No more than two people at a time can visit a resident, care center staff take visitors’ temperatures prior to sitting down and everyone must wear a mask the entire time.
At The Heartland, the restrictions are the same. They built a visitation space on their patio, which includes a plexiglass partition to keep residents safe as they talk to visitors. Karen Zaninovich Parker, director of The Heartland, said that when the weather cooperates, the residents have been using it.
Even with the restrictions, it’s still an improvement over the other options they’ve had for the past few months. For Kelly Mikeworth, it’s a welcome break from isolation.
“I was feeling kind of down,” she said.
Sara Green, care center activities coordinator, said the Skype and FaceTime video conferencing visits were not ideal. The residents’ sons and daughters are often in their 60s, and many were no more comfortable with the technology than the residents.
There were a few residents, Green said, who just weren’t going to have anything to do with video conferencing. They have had the option of window visiting, where visitors come to the window and talk to their loved ones over the phone.
The outdoor face-to-face visits must be scheduled with available staff, which limits how many can be done on any given day. Some residents are continuing to do window visits just for safety, Green said. Even with all the precautions taken for the outdoor visits, the risk remains.
Kelly Mikeworth has six grandchildren — three of whom live in the area — and six more great-grandchildren. It’s going to be a long time to get in visits with all of them.
“Hopefully we can get some grandchildren here,” Maureen Mikeworth said.
Green and the other staff at the care center have worked hard to keep the residents occupied and to stave off the depression that can come from such isolation. On the center’s Facebook page are photos from these activities, which show residents playing games with oversized playing cards and eating Chinese food outdoors. The staff also play bingo with the residents as they have in the past, but now they sit in the hallways outside the residents’ rooms.
Green said they haven’t seen any serious depression among the residents.
“The majority of the residents have been very understanding of the circumstances,” she said.
For much of the pandemic, the staff has been required to wear masks inside the facility.
“Some of the staff are wearing decorative ones. The residents like the colors and the designs,” Green said.
Care center employees take every precaution they reasonably can, Green said, but especially with the spikes in cases in Park County, there’s always the worry that someone will get sick. They continue to remain vigilant for the sake of the residents.
“It’s been a concern for the staff,” Green said. “We work with the residents every day. They’re our family.”