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South Jordan Journal

Car parade at assisted living center with isolation restrictions boosts morale

Jun 03, 2020 01:23PM ● By Heather Lawrence

Family members who couldn’t visit because of health restrictions loved the parade for residents at Riverway Assisted Living in South Jordan on April 24. (Angelica Roman/Riverway Assisted Living)

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

Seniors are under some of the tightest restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Outbreaks at health care centers for seniors are what keeps me up at night,” said Jim Scadlock, administrator at Riverway Assisted Living in South Jordan.

To keep residents safe, Riverway stopped allowing visitors in March. But it’s taken an emotional toll on residents and families. To combat that toll, Donna Walker of the Memory Care Unit and Activities Director Angelica Roman  held a family parade for residents on April 24.

“Thankfully it was a beautiful day,” Roman said. “The sun was out, and we set up chairs in the parking lot. We had to keep everyone at least 6 feet apart, and we all wore masks.”

And then the cars came, full of families, signs, balloons and music.

“It was a fantastic parade,” said resident Jim Oviatt. “Little kids were in the back of the cars blowing bubbles. There was a guy that came in on a motorcycle and one in a classic Plymouth Barracuda. It was so much fun to get outside and be in the sunshine. Now I know people are thinking of me. It definitely made a difference.”

Bob Nixon is a 95-year-old resident. “The thing I liked about it was that there were so many people excited to see us, and we were excited to see them,” he said. “My kids came, and my grandkids and great-grandkids. It was one of the highlights of living here.”

“I thought it was very nice,” said resident Dr. Steve Eldredge. “Families gave us a lot of support and went around several times. I watched it for about an hour. People really went to a great effort.”

One woman in the Memory Care Unit was concerned when she didn’t see her family.

“She’s a little disoriented, and she’s used to seeing her family often, so this has been hard,” Roman said. “She said, ‘My family isn’t here.’ Just at that moment, they came around the corner, and she saw them. Her eyes got big, and she started to cry. ‘There they are!’ she said.’”

Shelbi Hale works as a Med Tech at Riverway and said visitation restrictions are hard on residents.

“It’s been hard to see the residents feel depressed and low,” Hale said. “ I love to come into work and say, ‘Hi, I missed you!’ and see a smile on their faces. They miss their families, and being a part of this work has been hard but rewarding. The parade was a great benefit to everyone: residents, staff and families. Families need to know that their loved ones are OK.”

Julie and Rex Becker of South Jordan came to see their brother-in-law.

“It was wonderful,” Julie Becker said. “Everyone was happy and had a smile on their face. All of the workers, all of the people who live there and all of the visitors in their cars were having fun.  We should do it again.”

Cavett Eaton and his wife, Karen, of West Jordan used to come to Riverway often to see their mothers, who are both residents.

“My mother is deaf, so communicating on the phone doesn’t always work,” Cavett Eaton said. “We try communicating with her through the window, but it isn’t the same. This parade was great. Some of our kids came from out of town. It was so good to see them.”

Becca Aileen of Herriman worries about her grandmother who is a resident.

“She can’t hear very well, and I used to visit a lot and paint her nails or do puzzles with her,” Aileen said. “She does best with one-on-one interactions, so I worry that we can’t go and do that with her. The parade was great. For her to come outside and have that visual interaction of seeing her grandkids was so good for her. Riverway is doing a great job of being creative and being that go-between to keep us connected.”

Fortunately, the restrictions seem to be working. Scadlock reported that at the time of this interview there had been no resident COVID-19 cases at Riverway. Staff members take residents’ temperatures and measure their oxygen levels at least twice a day.

Scadlock said the challenge now is to be diligent.

“As the community starts to ease up, that’s actually scarier for us,” Scadlock said. “Our population is more vulnerable, and it will take longer before we can ease restrictions. I have to be the mean guy, which I detest, but it’s the right thing to do.”

*Editor’s note: One of Ms. Lawrence’s relatives is a resident at Riverway Assisted Living.