Written by Scott Miller
This morning, Thursday April 16, 2020 at 9am I walked into an empty Chapel at Garden Spot Village. Steve Lindsey, CEO, Steve Muller, COO, Christy Turner, Director of Dining Services and Deborah Fast, Director of Volunteer Services were sitting on the stage with microphones.
Coffee & Conversation is held the first and third Thursday each month and the Chapel is usually full of residents. It’s always an open microphone question and answer session. The Chapel is equipped with a closed circuit TV broadcast system, so while there were no residents in the Chapel they were addressing anyone who had tuned in on their TV at home. Virtual Coffee & Conversation is now every Thursday at 9am until this situation is over.
Residents either texted or phoned in their questions. As you can imagine, it was all about COVID-19. Several of the texts were singing the praises of the staff for all the extra efforts and precautions that have been put in place to help people feel safe and stay healthy.
Those of us who are here on a daily basis see all the precautions and have participated to put them in place. I thought I’d try to give you a glimpse into what has been happening since this began. I was at an executive conference in Florida during the first week of March when COVID-19 began to make the news and it quickly became the main topic of discussion there.
That same week, here on the campus of Garden Spot Village, at a regular meeting of Coffee & Conversation CEO Steve Lindsey gave a PowerPoint presentation that shared data from the CDC about the seriousness and spread of the virus. It included bullet points outlining the 5 Phases of the Garden Spot Communities Emergency Response Plan and the five practical preventive measures: frequent handwashing, cough etiquette, social distancing, avoid touching your face and get medical attention if you feel sick. That was before anyone had any idea that we’d be where we are today, only six weeks later.
We are fortunate to have a resident communication system that includes an iPad in every apartment and cottage on campus. Both staff and residents heavily rely on it. The presentation above was immediately made available on that system and was posted on the internal resident website. Plus Coffee & Conversation is recorded and played on the internal TV system for people who could not make the meeting. At the very beginning residents were informed about what was happening in the world, what they could do to protect themselves and what Garden Spot had planned if the threat of the virus increased.
If you look at the COVID-19 update page on our website you can see how quickly we responded as the CDC and Department of Health released data and guidance. Thankfully, we have a strong Emergency Response Plan which we immediately began to implement, adapt and update based on what we were learning. The team has and is spending hours and hours on conference calls trying to stay ahead of the situation.
We quickly limited and then eliminated all gatherings and events. Healthcare was closed and everyone visiting has their temperature taken and they are screened for symptoms. We started screening visitors then closed our restaurants, coffee bar and stores to the public. We started screening all staff for symptoms daily. We closed all the entrances and exits onto campus except one where everyone who comes on campus is screened. We’ve been updating residents frequently on the internal communication systems. We’ve been disinfecting all high touch surfaces. We added hand sanitization stations and marks on the floor for social distancing. Chairs are spread out. Our restaurants are take-out only and we can deliver people’s orders directly to their homes. We’ve arranged grocery delivery with Shady Maple and out of our Linden Store. We added delivery services from Good’s Store and September Farms. The local pharmacy is delivering medications. I can go on and on and on. We’ve pulled out the stops and we continue to add precautionary measures as we notice yet another thing that can be done.
On the other side of all the precautions all kinds of things are being done to provide opportunities to engage. Just because we are social distancing physically does not mean that we have to social distance mentally, emotionally or spiritually. The creative team launched Connected a weekly video series highlighting how residents and staff continue to stay connected each week. Chaplain Chet Yoder is releasing weekly ChapChats videos. Weekly Cooking Demonstration videos show people how to make delicious culinary dishes using premade kits that are available for sale at The Harvest Table.
Departments are creating engaging videos and so far thirteen wellness videos have been released. In total twenty seven videos and counting have been released to ease the challenges of social distancing. In addition, we’ve been reminding people that the “the outdoors” isn’t closed. Practicing good social distancing many residents are taking advantage of the beautiful walking trails around the campus and through the gardens. While people may be self-isolating they surely are not abandoned.
If family members drop items off at the screening tent we make sure they get delivered. Social Services is routinely in touch with people who need assistance or extra assistance through these trying times.
While life has changed temporarily our commitment to “Enriching the lives of older adults as an expression of Christ’s love,” has not. In that spirit of love we continue to be committed to health, safety, service and hospitality. While we may be social distancing, you still hear laughter and good cheer along with friendly greetings.