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Retirement communities, assisted living homes try to keep spirits high

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Retirement communities across the country and here, too, have been adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to protect the vulnerable people that live in them.

The illness, caused by a strain of coronavirus, is believed to pose a significant risk to older people and those with respiratory and heart conditions as well as immune system deficiencies.

While Rowan County had its first diagnosed COVID-19 case on Thursday, local facilities say they’ve already started taking precautions, including not allowing visitors, screening residents and employees for fevers each day, limiting activities to one-on-ones or small groups and not allowing communal eating.

At Trinity Oaks, residents are connecting with family electronically. The facility is allowing packages to be dropped off by family members for the time being. Meals are being delivered to each resident individually, and small groups are allowed to visit the gym and pool areas. Residents have been asked not to leave as well.

Resident Services Director at the retirement center Maggi Blizzard said staff members are trying to brighten resident’s days by delivering treats. Blizzard said residents seem calm and appreciative of the extra care.

“I spent last night answering the sweetest emails from our residents, telling me how much they appreciated all the care we were giving, and they know how harrowing this is for us right now,” Blizzard said.

Residents at Brightmoor Nursing Center in Salisbury have cordless phones for residents to use to contact their loved ones, and those devices are disinfected after each use, along with every other surface at the center being sanitized every day.

Brightmoor Vice President Cathy Almon said families have been understanding and grateful for the measures. The center is working on getting a tablet for residents to make video calls in addition to the personal tablets residents already have. She said residents are understanding but disappointed by the limitations.

“Everybody has a heightened concern level,” Almon said. “But at the same time we’re fostering a positive environment in that.”

Almon said staff have been trying to keep spirits up as well by keeping their demeanor positive and cheery.

Brookdale Senior Living is a large company with 740 locations in 45 states, including one in Salisbury. A statement from the company said it is taking precautionary measures and following the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Brookdale has also restricted visitor access “except for end-of-life situations.” In those situations those visitors would be screened before they could enter and would only be allowed to be alone with a loved one.

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