I photographed my mom’s hands during a visit with her about a month ago. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.
THE FIRST TIME I READ their messages on Facebook, I cried, an unexpected eruption of mixed emotions.
These are difficult days when separation from loved ones challenges all of us. Sure, we can tout technology. But what if you live in a senior living center—assisted living or a nursing home or a senior apartment—and you can’t directly connect via technology? Then what?
Downtown Belview, Minnesota, photographed in November 2019. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.
I love what Parkview Senior Living in Belview, a small town in my native southwestern Minnesota, is doing to connect residents to loved ones. Parkview holds a special spot in my heart. My octogenarian mom lives there, where she is on hospice. I last saw her the weekend before the care center closed to visitors in an effort to protect residents during the COVID-19 crisis. Given her current health, I doubt Mom fully understands what’s happening in the world. And that’s OK. She’s lived through enough challenging days in her life-time.
This file photo shows the nursing home section of Parkview Senior Living. At the time I took this photo, the center was closed due to damage caused by a tornado which struck Belview in 2011. Thus the blue tarp on the roof. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2011.
But back to Parkview’s efforts to connect. On its Facebook page, this senior living center has posted photos of residents holding signs with messages for their loved ones. I recognize many of the people, having met or seen them while visiting Mom. Parkview is small. I’ve always appreciated the feels-like-family atmosphere. Mom and others living here are well cared for and loved. That comforts me during this time when I can’t visit. Or even call, because Mom can no longer communicate that way.
Kudos to the staff for photographing residents holding signs that begin with I want you to know…
The responses are both encouraging and difficult to read. Nearly every person shares how much they miss their loved ones. That’s to be expected.
I cried when I saw my mom’s photo and message. “I love and miss you all. Hope to see you when this is all over. I enjoy when we get together it doesn’t happen often enough.” And then I cried again as I scrolled through the photos and read the I want you to know…from other residents.
Fern says, “…even though you look good through my window, I hope you will be able to come see me soon.”
“…Hope you remember me,” writes Grandma Bea.
And from John, who rolled his wheelchair into my mom’s room during my last visit, comes this. “When this clears up, come and see me when you can…maybe in June?!!”
HOW THEY’RE DOING
Most say they are doing OK, well, good. But not Barb. Her message reads: “Being given all the TLC of my awesome staff and family. I am doing ‘super fantastic.’” I love Barb’s upbeat attitude.
Andy also praises Parkview. “I’m doing good…the nurses are good and also the food.” But then he offers this advice. “Stay out til this is over.” Gotta appreciate that directive from a man who’s lived a few years.
Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.
Talbert isn’t thinking about himself. Instead, he asks, “Donald…how are the cats doing?
WHERE THEY’D RATHER BE
If Hazel had her way, she’d be outside. On the farm.
Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo of crocuses.
And Beata, well, she’s hungry for lefse. This is a strong Norwegian community. And she’d like to be running outside picking crocuses. That made me laugh. In the midst of this global pandemic, these seniors are thinking about the simple joys in life. Maybe we could all learn something from them.
BECAUSE IT’S GOOD TO LAUGH
Humor, in my opinion, helps. Laura, from my hometown of Vesta, offers this message: “I miss your jokes, but not your needle pokes. I saw the Easter Bunny today. He looked to be healthy! He was wearing a mask, yet I think he will be ready to go on with Easter…” A little poetry. A little humor. And then this poignant ending: “We are home sick for you all!”
Grandview Valley Winery north of Belview. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2014.
Many residents are connecting with loved ones via phone. They are reading and solving word puzzles. And praying. And they are thinking about better days. Especially Judy, who shares this message: “I’m doing okay. Looking forward to going out for a meal and a glass of wine when this is over.”
Me, too, Judy. Me, too.
TELL ME: If you have a loved one in senior living, how are you staying connected during this global pandemic? I’d love to hear your stories.
© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling