IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - This October, our local residency centers are celebrating Residents’ Rights Month 2020 with the theme “Connections Matter” in light of the COVID-19 restrictions for visits to senior living centers in our community.
On Thursday, October 1st at noon, Ammon Mayor Sean Coletti read the Residents’ Rights Proclamation at Broadway Fields.
“We’ll be celebrating residents’ rights month with this theme, connection matters, to emphasize connections to family, to friends, and to the community, as an essential component of good health and quality of life for residents,” Mayor Coletti said.
Performers including Old Time Fiddlers, Airborne Jump Rope Team, and Balloon Magic with clowns put on a travelling roadshow and visited facilities within our area. After Broadway Fields, the group plans to visit Gables of Idaho Falls, Tambree Meadows, Fairwinds/Sandcreek, Morningstar, Promontory Point, and Teton Post-Acute.
On Friday October 2nd beginning at noon, the group will set up and perform in the parking lot of New Beginnings Church. From there, they plan to visit Life Care, Gables of Ammon, Crystal Creek, Turtle and Crane, Parkwood Meadows, Lincoln Court, and Good Samaritan.
Jodi Stanton is the Advocacy and Caregiver Support Technician at Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership. She helped organize this event because she says the pandemic has absolutely destroyed this year for seniors. Residents have been denied contact with outside visitors. Many residents haven’t had close contact with their loved ones in months. This connection is something Jodi says human beings, and especially seniors need now more than ever.
“The residents and their rights have kind of been put on a back burner because of all of this and it makes me sad,” Stanton said, “I’m trying to reach out to them for October and let them know that they are loved, that we are still thinking about them, we have not forgotten them, and that they are still so important to their families, to their loved ones, to their friends, to all of us out here in the outside world.”
Stanton says she hopes to see “toe tapping, smiles, and some laughter”. She hopes that being able to be outside and be involved with the community in some small way will brighten the lives of our seniors who have been cast in the coronavirus’s shadow all year.
Kelly Smith is the Activities Director for the Gables in Idaho Falls. Today, she performed as Posie the clown to help bring a smile to local residents.
“We need to make a very special effort to make sure that their rights are respected. Their rights for family and the connections to keep them alert and keep them happy,” Smith said. “We need to work hard to think of how we can still be the best part of their day. We might have to come up with nontraditional ways of doing it, but it’s important that we do it.”
Hardships have fallen on many families across the nation due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many residents in our area are showing increased signs of depression due to the loss of connection with friends and family. Edward Wilson says he has lived at Broadway Fields for six years and events like this make him enjoy his stay.
“That’s very thoughtful and appreciated,” Wilson said. “I wish they were here longer, I just barely got warmed up.”
“My goal was just to let them know that they are celebrated and we want to be back with them again and seeing them, but I wanted to give them something special just to bring them out so they can sit outside in the sunshine and enjoy some entertainment and have some interaction with everybody out here,” Stanton said.
Stanton says the residents she interacts with have shown a huge decline in cognitive abilities. She says there has been an increased sadness in our area’s nursing home facilities.
“They have taken a real hit when it comes to their overall wellbeing, who they are, and their attitude and their zest for life,” Staton said.
Stanton says many residents who used to be highly active and involved within the facilities now don’t want to leave their rooms. Residents are no longer allowed to eat in the dining rooms together and must eat their meals in their rooms due to COVID-19 restrictions. She says because of this isolation, some residents even feel a sense of abandonment.
“Even if it’s a family member or a hairdresser or somebody in their church group, they haven’t had those kinds of connections all year,” Stanton said. “I just want to bring to light the importance of our residents and the importance of connection.”
Stanton says the theme “Connection Matters” helps us focus on important needs of our seniors that they are currently missing due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“It gives us the opportunity to celebrate the dignity, respect, freedoms, and the rights of our seniors living in the senior living, assisted living, and skilled nursing facilities here in Idaho Falls,” Stanton said.
Stanton says there are 19 facilities for seniors in Idaho Falls. She guesses there are close to 1,000 people within these facilities combined. She also says many of these facilities are at peak capacity.
"There are 1.3 million individuals living in 15,600 nursing homes and over 800,000 individuals living in 28,900 assisted living residential care facilities in the United States," Mayor Coletti said during his speech today.
The COVID-19 lockdowns for visiting senior living centers have affected a lot of families within our area. Stanton says the restrictions have put a huge strain on her caregivers and those at home who are caring for their elderly loved ones.
Staton says there is no way to visit all of the facilities safely. She is planning a different event for “Connections Matter” in October for the facilities that have been left out of the travelling roadshow.
“I just have a real love and appreciation for their experiences in life and their love and their need to share what they know,” Staton said. “They are so smart and they have been through so much. They have so many good things to share with anybody that will take just two minutes to talk to them. They love visitors. It’s been super hard because they haven’t been able to have any.”
Stanton says long-term care facility staff and those involved within those communities have been trained in PPE. She hopes if active case numbers stay the same or go down in the near future, members of the community like herself will be able to enter facilities and start visiting loved ones again soon.
“Each and every one of them holds a special place in my heart,” Stanton said. “I want to hug every one of them...they just need that support so bad right now.”
Stanton asks the public, even if they don’t have a loved one in a long term care facility, to write a note or a letter and send it to any facility. She says you can ask the facility to give the note to anyone who needs a smile or an extra pick me up to make it through their day.
Stanton says she may be hosting another travelling roadside event for the seniors again in the spring, depending where our community stands with COVID-19 restrictions in regard to senior, assisted and skilled nursing communities. This event came together short notice and some performers, such as senior belly dancers and other troops of belly dancers were too nervous to perform due to potential transmission of the virus or conflicting work schedules. She says she encountered a lot of excitement to do something for seniors in the community during her planning. Those who couldn’t participate now expressed enthusiasm to be included in the spring line-up.