Ormond Manor and Tuscan Gardens share their successes and challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Assisted living facilities in Palm Coast and Ormond Beach are adjusting to a major component that has disappeared from their hallways due to precautions taken to limit the spread of COVID-19: families.
Typically, family visitors brighten the days of residents, and now their interaction is limited to video chats and waves and signs through windows.
Two facilities — Ormond Manor at 495 Sterthaus Drive in Ormond Beach, and Tuscan Gardens at 650 Colbert Lane in Palm Coast — recently shared with the Observer their experiences about how things are different, and how things are the same, despite the pandemic.
Families aren't able to visit assisted living facilities, which house some of the community members who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. They also aren't able to admit any nonessential vendors.
Food deliveries are handled outside the facility at Ormond Manor. The dining area is closed in Tuscan Gardens, and meals are taken to the residents' rooms.
"We have a hair stylist who we contract with, and she hasn't been here since February," said Andrew Gall, executive director at Ormond Manor.
Coping without family
Families are missed, and staff has worked to compensate as much as possible.
"Our activities program has had to be very creative to keep our residents stimulated and engaged while in their suites," Tuscan Gardens staff wrote via email in response to the Observer's questions.
Gall said some family members used to visit daily for meal time or to take parents out for walks. "All of that has been shut down," he said. "FaceTime and phone calls have been huge."
Tuscan Gardens has also increased its communication to families, including a weekly video update. It also encourages "pop-bys," where family members hold up a white board or poster with handwritten notes. They can stop by windows or text photos to the residents.
"We encourage families to send creative photos of themselves that we feature on our Tuscan Gardens Channel for a surprise message to the residents," Tuscan Gardens staff wrote. "We are making every effort to keep our residents connected to their loved ones and vice versa."
Ormond Manor also uses an app called Sagely that gives real-time notifications when a resident is doing certain activities, such as playing bingo or sitting down to have to lunch.
Increased activity time
Without the option of having family members visit, Ormond Manor has tried other activities. For example, Gall said, lunch was served outdoors on the patio. That took extra effort from staff, but it was worth it.
"It had a significant impact, being able to add that vitamin D, the change of pace," Gall said. "For someone living with dementia, where every day is a new day, every hour is a new hour, having that change of scenery can be the difference between a really bad day a really good one."
Tuscan Gardens has been doing a variety of activities, including hallway dance parties, treat deliveries, themed days, dress-up days and physical therapy in residents' rooms.
Both Gall and Tuscan Gardens praised employees for making the most of a difficult situation.
Gall pointed out the performance of his director of nursing, Rebecca Worley.
"She's been the definition of consistent and compassionate," Gall said. "In the last six weeks, every day has been a new chapter, and she refuses to compromise on what that looks like."
Gall also said he was able to hire a new employee who had been laid off from bartending elsewhere in the community, and she has been a strong addition to the staff.
At Tuscan Gardens, associates are showing extra care for residents.
"For one resident’s birthday, an associate brought in a cake and called in other associates to sing Happy Birthday to her," the staff wrote. "Another associate brought her pet rabbit in on Easter to visit with residents. The list goes on and on based on the needs of our residents each day."