Beginning in March 2020, recreation therapists, activity directors and staff were faced with the daunting task of making their activities safe for their residents. Groups were cancelled; family members, volunteers and outside entertainment were no longer allowed inside of nursing homes. Much more time was devoted to cleaning and social distancing.

Now it’s been almost a year and the new normal has provided insights that will stick with us even as we (hopefully) get to return to some semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy. Here are some things we’ve learned:\

Senior woman with caregiver or healthcare worker indoors, using tablet. Coronavirus concept.

Video Chat Apps Will Stay

As staff have become experts at using FaceTime, Zoom and Skype, residents will continue to enjoy getting to call their family members and see them face-to-face. For example, one resident was able to connect with family off-island and talked to them even more than he did pre-pandemic. These regularly scheduled calls allow for connections to continue with friends and family near and far, despite the inability to travel.

Don’t Underestimate Virtual Offerings

Virtual classes have allowed activity staff to provide kūpuna with more ways to stay engaged and feel part of the community. High school students in California performing jazz via Zoom, a virtual art class with supplies and assistance from staff and getting to see famous symphonies performing free online holiday concerts all offer great possibilities for future programs.

Compassion is Still No.1

Lastly, though this is not new, the pandemic has shown the importance of human connection. Staff working in nursing homes have provided the love and attention that family members would normally be able to give, while simultaneously keeping those outside connected and assured that those inside are being well-cared-for. It has been a heart-wrenching balancing act, but for many of us working in this setting, our ability to love and care for kūpuna has increased and the attention to detail we have learned will stick with us even as we overcome and move past COVID-19.

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