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Staff, residents find innovative ways to remain active and connected

The spread of COVID-19 throughout the globe has prompted changes for people in every walk of life. Stay at home orders restrict everyday activities, and maintaining a 6-foot distance from others is now commonly exercised.

Our community has likewise been forced to deal with changes in how we interact with the outside world. Some of these have created strain and stress, yet staff and residents have worked together to develop innovative ways to have fun and stay connected to those we love.

“Definitely technology has been a great benefit,” said Kristine Pancer, social services director. “We have the ability to Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, and on an average day we’re helping eight to 10 residents communicate with family. That’s been a huge help, and it helps for them to see each other.”

In addition to technology, families have been using what’s come to be known as the “window visit.” Families can approach their loved one’s window and touch their hands to the glass. Sometimes visitors and residents just appreciate looking at each other while visiting on the phone.

Kristine said Aberdeen Heights is fortunate to have a courtyard that can only be accessed from within the community. This provides an outdoor space for residents to get some sunshine and fresh air. While they still have to meet the challenges of social distancing, Kristine said the courtyard has served as a place where residents can enjoy music or get a little exercise.

Staff has also worked to find new ways to meet residents’ spiritual needs during this time.

“Our chaplain created a volunteer list for independent living residents. They are making wellness checks on other residents,” Kristine said. “It’s sort of like a pen pal, but through the phone.”

They’ve also begun a conference call Bible study that keeps residents connected to their faith and engaged in their spiritual health and well-being.

Staff is also extra conscious of resident habits. They spend more one-on-one time with residents to ensure their needs are met and that they’re getting the personal interaction they need to be healthy.

“We’ve been doing a lot of nail painting and building bouncy balls,” Kristine said. “There’s even a snack cart that makes the rounds. Some residents enjoy puzzles or coloring. Whatever it is they like to stay engaged with has been really helpful to their well-being.”

Thanks to the talents of the life enrichment team, residents seldom have to wait long for a live performance inside the halls of The Glen at Aberdeen Heights.

“David (Evans) plays classical piano, and Hannah (Lefort) plays guitar and sings beautifully,” Kristine said. “We’ve done hallway concerts, and the residents can listen from their doorways. One day, the weather was perfect, so they could enjoy that concert outside.”

Kristine said it’s important for everyone to understand that something as overwhelming as a global pandemic can bring about some intense feelings, such as fear, or a sense of loss of identity or independence. Those feelings are valid, natural and part of the experience of being human.

“When you live in a community, you might already feel a sense of loss,” Kristine said. “This pandemic, I feel, has brought that on for some people. You’re not able to see family or do the things you used to do, like go to the doctor or have lunch with your family. It’s super important to be able to process any feelings you have — to understand and express your feelings. And to understand that this is time-limited, and it’s for their health, well-being, and safety.”

The staff has risen to meet residents’ needs and worked tirelessly to help them through this trying time. To recognize their effort, the executive team had T-shirts printed that say, “Never underestimate a PMMA employee who braved COVID-19” and placed a banner out front that reads “Heroes work here.”

“We wanted to thank the staff for their countless hours and dedication,” Kristine said. “The pride employees have is a huge part of what we do to care for people. If there was a missing link in that chain, we couldn’t do this. Every role is important, and that was a thank you to them and a reminder that we’re doing well, and our residents are doing well. And we’re going to get through this together.”

PHOTO: Aberdeen Heights’ parent company sent “Heroes Work Here” banners to all 16 PMMA communities in Kansas and Missouri to honor the hard work staff members are putting in to keep residents safe.

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