Traverse City Assisted Living Home Seeks Surprises for Seniors
"It’s hard. It’s sad. Some of them kind of feel forgotten for sure."
Residents in Assisted Living situations have been unable to see family members for more than four months during the Coronavirus pandemic – and now that’s going to last even longer. The latest from the Governor’s office is that the restrictions on visitors will continue through August 31st. One facility in Traverse City is trying to combat the loneliness – and you can help.
Amber Phillips with Northern Star Assisted Living says the restrictions during the pandemic have been difficult. “It’s been really hard for families. Very hard. To not be able to hug your spouse. We have a lot of family members – this makes me really sad – they haven’t been able to do that. So it’s hard, it’s terrible. It’s really hard to see.”
Life often moves a little more slowly at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. But it’s been unusually slow the past several months – because of the Coronavirus. Phillips says, “Because of that the residents aren’t able to see their family members, they can’t visit them.”
Some places have allowed visits from a distance, or through windows, for example. At Northern Star they can schedule distanced visits on the back patio. But the close, face-to-face interactions and human contact have to wait, unless it’s a staff member.
Gerry Isip is Dolores’ son. “We’ve seen her through the courtyard through a fence in June. And we’ve been trying to call her everyday just to see if she’s okay.”
While restrictions are an inconvenience for most of us, they’re a way of life now in places like this. Phillips says, “It’s just really hard on them. They haven’t been able to go out to lunch, go shopping or anything like that. It’s been really hard. I think in the community we forget because we’ve been allowed to go to restaurants. We can still go shopping. And here they’ve been in their rooms. They eat all their meals in their rooms. They’ve lost that companionship with dining, the companionship with one another.”
Gerry Isip has noticed a change in his mom. “The isolation for her has been detrimental due to her being a social person. I believe her illness has progressed a little bit more.” Phillips says residents have noticed a difference in the lack of visits, too. “They know there’s something going on definitely. They, some of them kind of feel forgotten for sure. They miss their hugs.”
That’s why Northern Star Assisted Living is now calling on the community to make surprise deliveries – donations of small gifts to help lift the spirits of residents. Think of it as an Adopt-a-Senior program, but you don’t even have to know the name of the person you’re giving to.
Monday morning a surprise donor dropped off a plant for Dolores. But Phillips says it doesn’t matter what it is. “They love plants, flowers, if people go even to the dollar store or Walmart and pick up little trinkets. They love decorations, signs, anything. They’re excited literally with everything. So candy, potato chips, pop. Anything like that, it doesn’t matter. They’re just happy to be thought of.”
As for the surprise for Dolores, “When we told her someone’s dropping something off today she just lit up. She got all of her makeup done and got dressed up like she’s going to a party. She’s pretty happy about it.”
Dolores says, “Wow it’s so nice. Thank you so much. This one is special. I will put this in my room.” Her son Gerry adds, “It brings a lot of joy to my face that somebody is caring enough to do that for somebody they don’t know. And I believe it will make everybody’s day and hopefully my mom’s day too.”
Northern Star in Traverse City will gladly accept your items. Or you can call ahead to see if nursing homes near you are accepting gifts for their residents. Phillips says, “They get so excited about the smallest things and this would be a really good way of lifting everyone’s spirits.”