New lifestyle

Residents at Country Place  Living enjoy watching visitors through the windows during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

ERIC SPRUILL

Each day during the COVID-19 pandemic, nursing home and assisted living employees have been carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. Nursing homes have had the highest number of outbreaks and deaths in Kansas and across the nation. The largest area outbreak in southeast Kansas has been at the Life Care Center in Burlington, where 37 people connected to the facility have contracted the virus.

Workers at local assisted-living centers have been trying to keep life as normal as they can for each of their residents, including Country Place Living nursing director Michelle Stockstill. 

“We have some residents that really don’t know what is going on, but you can tell they know everything is different,” she said. “Some had family members who would visit every single day and it has really affected those people. But we watch the news every day and they know this is a really bad thing.”

Mandy Hillmon, operator at Guest Home Estates II, said they are doing all they can to keep their residents entertained. 

Guest Home Estates II, 1202 S. Plummer, has scheduled a drive-by parade for Saturday evening at 6:30 pm. All of the residents will be facing 12th street and everyone is encouraged to drive by and honk.

“We have reached out to all of their families, but would love to get some community support for this event. We do have patients who have dementia, but when we remind them what is going on they understand for that moment,” Hillmon said. “We remind them throughout the day what is going on. Our residents have handled this so well. We are amping up all of our activities to keep them from going stir crazy.”

Last month, Country Place had a resident who turned 109 years old. 

“The community really showed up for that. It may have seemed like a small thing, but it meant the world to our residents and to us. It was such a great sight,” Stockstill said.

She said the key to safety has been employees following all the guidelines both at home and in the workplace. 

“If one person brings it in, that is all it takes,” Stockstill said. “But all the employees go home straight from work, they practice social distancing. They know how horrible it would be if it were to make it into this facility.” 

Hillmon echoed her sentiments. 

“All of our employees have handled this like champs. We all work well together and have been compliant through this entire thing,” she said. “It has been a little stressful, but this is what we do. We look out for all our residents.”

Stockstill added that they had employees willing to stay at the nursing home around the clock so they wouldn’t risk exposing residents to the virus if an outbreak were to happen in the county.

Some nursing homes are experiencing shortages in tests, masks and other personal protective equipment and supplies that are needed daily. But, luckily, that has not been the case at Country Place or at Guest Home Estates II.

“One of our resident’s family members made all of us masks. The health department delivered a lot of masks and supplies and so did Neosho County Community College. We are very thankful for them,” Stockstill said. “Cardinal Drug has been great to work with. One of the harder items for us to get has been temperature (thermometer) covers, but (Cardinal) has been able to find them for us. Everyone has really stepped up and helped us out.”

Hillmon said Guest Home Estates II does not have any tests, but they have not needed any either. 

“We have plenty of N-95 masks thanks to our relationship with the health department. We haven’t had any shortages of any kind. This community has provided us with tremendous support,” she said.

Stockstill said they have had to take on the role of being beauticians as well, to give residents a sense of normalcy. 

“We are trying our best, me and the director and some of the nurses try to fix their hair each day,” she said. “We are not very good at it, since that is not what we went to school for. We have a lot of residents in need of haircuts.”

Hillmon said families of residents have provided everything they need.

“Families will drop off supplies for our residents, and they always take time to visit through the windows of their loved ones,” she said. 

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