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Local

DeKalb County senior facility residents adjust to new normal amid COVID-19 restrictions

Staff help the elderly to find new normal during coronavirus pandemic

Barb City Manor in DeKalb March 25, 2020.
Barb City Manor in DeKalb March 25, 2020.

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DeKALB – DeKalb County residents who live at area nursing homes and retirement homes are getting more acclimated to 21st century technology in order to see their family and friends.

Stephen Cichy, executive director at Oak Crest Retirement Center in DeKalb, said the facility is using the same technology in order to make socializing accessible with those outside the facility, while the elderly residents there stay safe inside.

“It’s not perfect, but it helps,” Cichy said. He said the residents also call each other on the phone.

The residents are using Skype, FaceTime and Google Duo. Residents are free to come and go at Barb City Manor and Oak Crest DeKalb Area Retirement Center, though other facilities such as Oak Crest Retirement Center and DeKalb County Rehab and Nursing Center are restricting visitors at the guidance of the Illinois Department of Public Health, they said. As residents in one of the highest-risk categories for COVID-19 adjust to their new normal, facility staff are implementing new ways to ensure quality of life.

Steve Duchene, administrator for DeKalb County Rehab and Nursing Center, said the screen-time between residents and their families is well-received.

Talking to loved ones over screens is not the only change some seniors have had to adjust to, since state and federal guidelines are emphasizing the importance of social distancing and sheltering in place. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention notes that the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are the most vulnerable.

All group activities have been canceled at Barb City Manor in DeKalb, its administrator, Maureen Gerrity, said.

“The governor’s order is pretty clear,” Gerrity said about Illinois’ Executive Order 2020-10, which limits groups to less than 10. “No group activities. We have more than 10 residents.”

Gerrity said since the activities are canceled, Barb City Manor is using its extra activity rooms for resident dining.

“We spread all the residents six feet apart for eating,” she said. “We [have] to use all of our activity rooms for dining now.”

To maintain social distancing, people are to keep themselves six feet away from “any other person,” the executive order states.

Gerrity said the changes are “very hard” on the residents because they’re looking for social activities.

“We just keep trying to remind them it’s temporary,” she said. “Hopefully everybody will be able to stay well.”

Cichy said the residents at Oak Crest Retirement Center have had to adjust to dining, too.

Cichy said the system mimics restaurants and how residents come in and get their meals to-go.

“I’d call [it] a carry-out system. That [is] probably the most dramatic change,” Cichy said.

Cichy said the residents can also order delivery and that they’re reminded what to do with the packaging.

“Be cautious and conscious,” Cichy said. “[They] need to empty the package, put the internal pack onto a plate or [into] the refrigerator. Dispose of the packaging, wipe off the surface and wash your hands for 20 seconds.”

Duchene said the DeKalb County Nursing and Retirement Home is balancing the residents’ safety and their normal routines.

“The residents are dining near their rooms and activities include more individualized programs,” Duchene said.

He said since the residents can’t be in big groups and they love bingo, the staff adjusted how it organizes its bingo games.

“We do that in groups of six, but we spread them all out,” Duchene said. “There’s all kinds of games [the staff] plays with them.”

He said as far as other communication between residents goes, if two friends live in the same area, there’s no problem with them talking to each other as they normally would.

“If they’re in different buildings, they can teleconference, call or write,” Duchene said. “We’ll accommodate anything because we understand.”

Duchene said the process for residents getting their medications has not changed and neither has the meal service.

“They’re still getting the same hot, delicious meals,” he said.

Gerrity said at Barb City Manor, the residents are in charge of their medications themselves because the staff at Barb City Manor cannot be in charge, or even store the medication, since it’s not a medical facility.

She said the residents either get the prescriptions by mail-order – three months at a time – or they go through a local pharmacy that sets up deliveries to the residents.

“Some of the residents drive to go out and get [the prescriptions],” Gerrity said.

Gerrity said some family members, who are the caregivers, get the medication for them, too.

As for morale, Gerrity said the staff is doing the best it can.

“I think everybody is understanding,” she said. “The toughest thing is no one knows how long this is going on. There is no end date and they feel like they’re kind of in limbo.”

However, Gerrity said she keeps
reminding the residents and the staff that they’re going to get through and that the current situation is only temporary.

Duchene said the DeKalb County Rehab and Nursing Center residents have acclimated quite well to their new routine and that morale is good, because the staff keeps the residents well-informed.

“The staff is amazing,” Duchene said. “Our heroes are our staff.”

He also said how the patients are resilient.

“These people have been through the [Great Depression], world wars, they’re used to adversity,” he said. “They’re very good about that. What they learned young in life, they carried those core values through the rest of that life. So [there’s] a lot to be said for the greatest generation.”