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Adapting to COVID-19 while caring for fragile seniors

Adapting to COVID-19 while caring for fragile seniors
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August 13, 2020
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Caring for at-risk populations in assisted living communities became exponentially more complex when COVID-19 arrived. For the staff, for the residents, and for the families they left behind.

For Colean Farrar of Juniper Communities, the immediate challenge has been “reuniting” her residents with their loved ones – and doing it safely. Promoted to executive director of the Louisville facility from nursing director in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Farrar felt the urgency from both sides.

“It has been tough for the families to be cut off from their loved ones for an extended period of time,” said Farrar. “It’s tough for them and the residents.”

Realizing that telephone and Skype or FaceTime were not realistic substitutes for in-person family get-togethers, Farrar waited until clearance was given for family reunions with social distancing, and recently implemented a practice where two family members could visit outdoors – separated from their loved one by a six-foot table. All family and staff wear face masks (their loved one is offered a mask too), and social distancing is helped by strategically-placed plants that discourage the resident from giving visiting family members long-overdue but not coronavirus-safe hugs.

“This has been incredibly popular,” said Farrar. “Some family members reserve a spot every day to come up and see their loved one.”

Going beyond the personal visit
The coronavirus and the separation of loved ones has taken a deeper toll on families than many realize, Farrar believes. For that reason, she relies heavily on the resources that the Alzheimer’s Association brings to the table.

“When we have a family member who’s struggling, being able to provide them with information on Alzheimer’s Association classes or the website ( can help them realize they’re truly not alone,” Farrar said. “Having resources that we can show or print off of the Association’s website gives them something to read, or we can help them get signed up to a virtual class. There’s so much there that they can get support from.”

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