• LeadingAge New York

Glenville nursing home gets creative to keep residents engaged

GLENVILLE — Activities for residents are always an important part of life at nursing homes, but never more so than during a public health crisis like the coronavirus pandemic.

Because of strict state guidelines issued in mid-March, visitors aren’t allowed in hospitals and adult-care facilities, one of the many steps the state has taken to try to contain the spread of COVID-19.

For facilities such as Baptist Health Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Glenville, the no-visitors mandate has placed an even greater emphasis on the importance of activities for the well-being of residents.

The Daily Gazette interviewed Baptist’s two key employees responsible for activities during the COVID lockdown, two longtime employees who are always adept at coming up with a “Plan B” in a pinch.

Barb Bradt is the director of activities. A Scotia resident, she’s worked at Baptist for 43 years. Carmen Martinez, Baptist’s activities supervisor, is a resident of Schenectady. She’s been at Baptist for 13 years. Together, they form a formidable team.

Q: Describe some of your main duties during the COVID-19 pandemic.

BB:In addition to overseeing the activities department and its seven employees, I am coordinating staff support during the pandemic for all Baptist employees, such as breathing exercises, stress relief and staff appreciation initiatives. I recently dressed as a clown and delivered gifts from the community and cards from local children’s groups. I also spend time running the gift shop and delivering items from families to the residents, and helping residents in whatever way I can.

CM:I’ve been helping other activities staff and doing things to keep residents happy — arranging window visits between residents and families, door visits between residents, phone calls and Skype visits between family members and residents. I recently ran a singalong party for the residents. We deliver email messages, packages, books, magazines and music to residents, in addition to doing one-on-one activities with them while group activities are currently prohibited.

Q: Have you had any inspiring experiences during the crisis? 

BB: We recently had a family have a “window” birthday party on our patio for their 95-year-old mother, who could see them out the window. I was inspired by the dedication of that family and other families who have been doing similar activities, and what a positive effect their efforts have had on the residents.

CM: I’ve been inspired seeing the reactions of the residents when they see their children and grandchildren, either through a window or on Skype. I’m also inspired by the dedication of the family members.

Q: How are residents seeming to cope with the crisis?

BB: It’s harder on the alert residents. Those with dementia are not as affected because they may not be aware of the current situation.

The alert residents miss having contact with their families and the other residents in the building. Residents understand that the precautions are in place for their own safety and that of their families, and many watch Gov. Cuomo every day.

Q: What are some of the lessons that you’ve learned during the shutdown?

BB: I’ve learned the importance of good communication and being upfront with people. I’m aware of how much families and friends do for residents, and I also see how important resident-to-resident contact is. 

CM: I’ve learned to multitask. I’ve also developed closer relationships with the family members since this began. 

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