COOS BAY — The March calendar at Ocean Ridge Assisted Living was jam-packed until the novel coronavirus shut activities down.
The calendar had something called “Flexercise” every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, not to be confused with “Stretchercise” each Friday. There was chair yoga, ukulele lessons, afternoons of bingo and a trip to the casino all on the schedule.
But these activities at Ocean Ridge Assisted Living in Coos Bay all came to a halt when the country began to slow down as the novel coronavirus continued to spread.
“Everything is on hold. We have no outside people coming in,” said Helen Stamate, 90, who lives at Ocean Ridge.
“I’m doing just fine. Kind of bored, but otherwise doing just fine. The room gets smaller and smaller.”
With no more music in the afternoons – that was Stamate’s favorite time to mingle with other residents – and no brainiacs club to attend, she is looking to fill her time. She has settled on watching Law and Order, Golden Girls and taking virtual tours of museums.
“We can’t have those big gatherings so we’re finding things we can do with them individually or also finding a lot of word type puzzles and games and different things like that that we can pass out to them in their room to do,” said Diane Mason, the executive director at Ocean Ridge.
“It’s totally different. I’m not sure any of us know what normal is any more.”
For now, those at assisted living homes like Ocean Ridge or any of the other retirement communities and senior living centers in the area have all been working through a new normal. These populations of older residents living in close quarters with one another have been taking extra precautions while there has been a close eye on their health.
“We’re very, very watchful for that population in those facilities,” said Brian Leon of Coos Health and Wellness.
As cases of coronavirus have broken out in senior homes across the country, Leon noted that the state is ready to test these individuals if anything comes up.
“So in particular long term facilities, we have guidance that essentially says any type of symptom, any type of concern we can essentially escalate very, very quickly without – with very little red tape, getting a sample up to the state public health lab and those are our priority individuals right now,” he said on Monday afternoon.
“They don’t have to check every box on the symptom profile. I don’t have to get permission, it’s more of a let me know, I ask you to get the sample, get it up to the public health lab and I let the state public health lab know it’s coming.”
Hoping to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, extra measures have been taken at Ocean Ridge that include no longer eating in a group and not allowing family members to visit.
This has led to increased phone calls and video chats with loved ones while residents have taken to writing on white boards and sharing messages with family members on Facebook.
“They’re having fun with it and of course they’ll be anxious to see people again but they are having fun with it,” said Mason.
“They’re really being very positive about it. You know, families and the residents. So it helps people from being depressed and they’re all very grateful because they don’t want to get sick and their family members don’t want them to get sick. However, everybody has been really, really good.”
At Life Care Center of Coos Bay and Inland Point Retirement Community in North Bend, similar measures are being taken. Only essential visitors, such as those giving medical treatment, are allowed in and everyone that comes through, including employees, has to have their temperature taken.
“While we know the term is social distancing, we’re still doing social things – just safely. It’s been a challenge we’ve readily embraced because our residents mean the world to us,” said Life Care Center’s executive director Barbara Hutchison. “Their happiness and fulfillment are why we’re here every day, and it’s an honor to serve them.”
Activities that once brought residents together are now a challenge, if not impossible.
“We have really … limited group activities and what we call life enrichment,” said Tom Stanley, founder of Cascade Living Group, which oversees Inland Point Retirement Community.
“Everyone is spread out around the room and there is a staff member who is spread out from her residents and we’re doing that kind of thing. So that’s been a big inconvenience. You know, it’s really tough on seniors to be isolated like that.”