It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
This has been the mindset of our operations team since we started preparing for a possible COVID-19 outbreak back in February. Like you, we are tired of COVID-19 and want life to get back to normal. But nearly six months later, we are still running in this marathon. Each week, we have new positive cases in staff and persons served and new community homes being put under quarantine.
Around the world, health experts, politicians and regular folks have different opinions about the right way to deal with COVID-19. But almost everyone agrees that we must protect the vulnerable. And the more than 1,100 men and women served by Evergreen are vulnerable. Many are above the age of 65 and many more have one or more preexisting conditions.
From the start, my pledge to you was that Evergreen would always choose safety over finances. We have now spent more than $2 million on pandemic-related expenses, and we are prepared to keep spending. We will do whatever it takes to keep the people we serve and our staff members safe.
One challenge for us is ensuring that each Evergreen division has a four-week supply of personal protective equipment (PPE). These items are still hard to get in large quantities and with flu season looming, we want to be more than prepared.
In the last few weeks, we have seen an increase in COVID-19 cases and community home quarantines in Texas. All of our day programs remain closed, with the exception of a limited number of individuals who are attending our program in Kentucky. All other states where we provide services still have shelter-in-place recommendations for our vulnerable populations.
I’m so proud of our direct support staff who have found so many ways to keep the people we serve active and engaged. In West Calcasieu, staff members are dedicating one day a week to learning about a different country through cooking and art projects. In Oklahoma, staff members arranged for a barbershop day at home and everyone had their hair cut. In Texas, we celebrated Dolly’s 89th birthday with a caravan driving past her community home. I could go on and on with all the stories of the amazing things our staff members are doing every day to keep the spirits of those we serve lifted.
I am still receiving calls and pleas from family members who desire to visit their loved ones residing in one of Evergreen’s community homes (intermediate care facilities). Recently, the mother of a person we serve, who is 80-years-old, called me. Her daughter lives in an Evergreen home near her, and she fears her daughter cannot understand why she is not visiting to hug her and hold her hand.
Many of the residents we support do not understand why our staff members are wearing masks and keeping their friends and loved ones far away. It is painful for me to have to continue saying that we must put the safety of the persons we serve and our staff members first. We cannot risk family members entering our homes and possibly transmitting this virus to any of our residents. I know that many long-term-care facilities are also struggling in helping family members understand why they cannot hug and visit their family members.
I completely understand how difficult this is, and please know that we are working to make safe accommodations – by offering outside visits where family members can visit keeping six feet of distance and by offering virtual visits. If you have not already done so, I encourage you to reach out to your loved one’s home manager to set up a FaceTime or Zoom call. If you live close by, we are happy to arrange for a socially distant outdoor visit. I know our staff members are also viewed as loved family members by our residents. Our staff members are providing safe hugs and giving love and special attention to each person we support every day.
I will add a personal note. I carry the pain of not being able to see my oldest son, Joshua, who passed away when he was 28. It has been eleven years since his death. I understand too well how horrible it is to not be able to hug him or see him. Please know that I believe all family members of residents of Evergreen community homes are very blessed to know their loved one is safe, and that they can see and communicate with one another. We do not know when we can allow in-person visits within the homes, but our staff will do everything possible to assure communication can occur.
In other news, our Dallas Harvest event will be hosted virtually on the evening of Friday, October 23. Tickets and sponsorships are available now. Evergreen depends on large events to fund our work, and this pandemic has forced us to cancel in-person gatherings. Luckily, technology has given us a life-line. We hope that you will change lives and support our programs that teach independence and build confidence by joining us for this exciting event.
As always, please contact me with any questions or concerns. Stay safe and enjoy the rest of your summer.