Georgia nursing home works to keep residents connected, protected during pandemic

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have been hit hard by the coronavirus and have gone for months without having in-person visitors in order to keep residents safe.

But many places are doing what they can to keep their residents cheerful despite the lack of visitors.

About a third of Georgia's COVID-19 deaths have been in long-term care facilities, so the facilities have the difficult job of finding ways to keep their residents protected but also connected. 

Alma Brown has seen a lot in her 83 years.


But, she says she's never been through anything quite like the last nine months.

"I am one who enjoys going to church every Sunday, going out to sorority meetings, going shopping, and those things I had to just give up," she says.

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Brown, who lives at A.G. Rhodes Nursing Home in Atlanta, has accepted she needs to stick close to home right now and she's finding ways to stay busy and connected.

"One of my favorite past times is playing bingo, and I like plant therapy, and I like music therapy," she says. "One of my favorite songs they come by and sing is 'What a Friend We Have in Jesus' because he's my rock."

"In the past, we were used to having family members come to visit their loved ones several times a week. Some would even come daily," A.G. Rhode's activity director Vanissa Johnson said.

Johnson says they would often have volunteer groups come in and lead projects for residents, but that is on hold, and, until recently, so were any kind of family visits.

"Some of them have reported that, you know, they're sad - more so because they're not able to see their family members the way they'd like to," she said. "Overall, we've tried to keep the residents encouraged."

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Like a lot of Georgians, they've embraced technology and connecting virtually - buying tablets for members.

"Where the residents can play games on their tablets, they can videochat with their family members, they can listen to relaxation music, so we really just had to think outside the box in doing things," Johnson said.

A volunteer from Spelman College recently taught three weeks of virtual art classes, where residents like Brown made portraits, bookmarks, and their own bingo cards.

Johnson said the residents at the facility are resilient and are hopeful that the pandemic will come to an end soon.

Brown says her faith helped her get through the year, and she's optimistic the new year will allow her to get back to shopping, her sorority meetings, and everything else.

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