Carrington Nursing Center in Starkville, pictured in this Dispatch file photo, will still enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal Thursday. But a COVID-19 Thanksgiving will be different than those of years past. Photo by: Dispatch file photo
November 25, 2020 9:12:10 AM
Even as she talks about plans for this year's Thanksgiving preparations, there's a wistful tone in Judy Otts' voice.
On Thursday, the 47 residents of Carrington Nursing Center in Starkville will still enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal and some will have visits from relatives. The common areas will still be decorated for the holiday.
But a COVID-19 Thanksgiving will be different than those of years past.
"Normally, we have a family/resident Thanksgiving," said Otts, the residential care facility's administrator. "I wouldn't call it a formal dinner, but it is a sit-down dinner with entertainment for the residents and their families. We'll still have a meal, but it won't be like before, especially without the families."
Nursing homes throughout the Golden Triangle are offering scaled-down celebrations Thursday while brainstorming for new ways to make up for the family intimacy that won't be a part of the holiday this year.
With 328 cases and 67 deaths in long-term facilities in Clay, Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties since March, the health of their vulnerable residents won't be compromised by holiday traditions.
"We really can't have the families come in like (the residents) want," said Mary Williams, a caregiver at Garden Hill Assisted Living in Lowndes County. "We'll still have a meal and a few other things, but really we're just trying to make the best of it."
Heather Parham, director of social services at West Point Community Living Center, said the large communal Thanksgiving meal will be replaced by smaller groups of residents.
"We are going to use different areas throughout the facility so we can bring residents of 10 together for the meal," she said. "It will mainly just be residents and staff, although we have permission for some limited visitation. We definitely want to make it a special day, but there are limitations in what we can do."
Otts said Carrington has set up opportunities for limited visitation as well.
"What we are planning to do is set up some outdoor visitation, if we weather permits," she said. "Families can bring meals if they want to. But we'll have to schedule the visits to maintain the requirements."
Williams said residents will be allowed to have "window visits" or phone visits with family members, a common practice these days at nursing homes.
But it still won't be quite the same, Otts admitted.
"One thing we miss through all of this, is hearing the residents come up and down the halls, talking, laughing," Otts said. "They are more in their rooms now. So the atmosphere, that's what I miss."
Throughout the pandemic, nursing homes have put a heavy emphasis on increased interaction with residents, many of whom feel isolated from their families.
"It's not just the nursing staff's job," Parham said. "When it comes to what the residents are dealing with mentality, everybody is involved, from custodians to our laundry people. We just love on them and hug on them and talk to them as much as we can. We know it's hard for them."
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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