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Christian Health Creates Meaningful Connection during Covid

Christian Health (CHCC), in its efforts to safeguard its hundreds of residents, patients, and staff, engaged in various initiatives to keep all connected to families and loved ones during visitor-restriction orders due to the pandemic. Visitation restrictions threatened to create an environment of loneliness and isolation – counter to CHCC’s Person- and Family-centered Care commitment to nurture the whole person and maximize optimal quality of life for every patient and resident. Utilizing technology, creativity, and most important, listening to those they care for, CHCC team members incorporated various methods to keep our residents and patients connected to their loved ones.

Exercising an abundance of caution and concern for the protection and well-being of patients, residents, team members, and the greater community, CHCC was one of the first communities in the area to restrict visitation – even before the State of New Jersey mandated restrictions across all health-care facilities.

“We recognize that this has been a challenging time for those with loved ones in nursing homes and assisted-living communities, as well as those caring for aging family at home,” said Douglas A. Struyk, CPA, LNHA, CHCC President and CEO. “We have always and will continue to protect the health, safety, and well-being of those entrusted to our care. We extend these same protections to our clinical and non-clinical team members, who give so heroically to deliver compassionate care and support during this worldwide health crisis. But we also recognize the importance of human connection and the significant benefit it has on health, healing, and wellness.”

CHCC team members have gotten creative with in-room activities, the use of video to reach patients and residents in the safety of their rooms, remote volunteerism, recorded and personalized music, and regular campus-wide messages from the Pastoral Care team to keep spirits nourished and lifted. To create connection with families, CHCC’s Activities teams worked swiftly to introduce patients and residents to technologies like Skype and FaceTime for virtual visits. They also listened to some residents who were overwhelmed by the technology, preferring phone calls and enjoying the gift of hand-written letters.

“Each patient and resident we care for is unique, and our commitment to listen and cater to their specific needs is a vital part of our mission,” said Linda Bunker, CHCC Director of Activities for Heritage Manor Nursing Home and Southgate. “Many of our residents are enjoying daily FaceTime calls with various family members and even favorite volunteers they’ve built relationships with over the years. But we have also had to create meaningful connection in other ways. Knowing a resident’s favorite hobby or activity has helped us tailor how we care for them.”

Christian Health Care Adult Day Services in Wayne and Wyckoff remain closed until further notice. Program staff have maintained relationships with clients through phone calls, video chats, and more recently, driveway visits at their homes – maintaining a six-foot social distance and always donning facial coverings for safety.

A recent CHCC Care-cade event, a drive-by car parade, welcomed family members of patients and residents to drive throughout CHCC’s 78-acre campus, sharing waves, smiles, and posters with greetings and well wishes.

“CHCC’s Care-cade was extraordinary,” said Ms. Bunker. “Some residents hadn’t seen their loved ones face-to-face in weeks, and while there were many tears, they were certainly tears of joy over this celebratory drive-by reunion.”

Most recent, and just in time for Father’s Day weekend in June, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli took steps to begin opening visitation, allowing physically distanced outdoor visits for long-term care patients, residents, and their loved ones. CHCC team members worked swiftly once the Executive Directive was received from the state to schedule as many patio visits as could be safely accommodated on Father’s Day, with full compliance of the state’s strict safety requirements.

“Allowing patio visits is a great first step and we look forward to continuing to work closely with our peers and state health officials to safely expand visitation in the near future,” said Mr. Struyk. “Nothing makes us happier than to see our patients and residents joyfully reunited with their loved ones. More important, it makes them happy and contributes greatly toward their quality of life and ability to exercise their personal freedoms.”