Marriage Through the Window: How Dementia Residents See Their Loved Ones Safely During the Covid Outbreak

Over six decades ago, they met on a dance floor in Gisborne.

Now, Covid has Joan and Robert Cooper meet through a window or the fence of the Hamilton dementia care unit in which he stays.

These moments are bright moments in what might otherwise be lonely days of confinement, thanks to the staff at Radius Glaisdale bringing him to the window if he sees her on his daily walk.

Residents also get special attention from passers-by, following a suggestion from a local woman on social media.

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Shirley Ratcliffe, a friend of the Cooper’s whose close friend Len Cuthbert is also in the dementia care unit, also makes visits from outside the Flagstaff facility.

“We just wanted to let them know we’re still here,” Ratcliffe said.

“They get mad if they can’t see us.

This walkway next to Radius Glaisdale in Flagstaff allows friends and family of residents to see them from a safe distance during the Covid outbreak.

Christel Yardley / Tips

This walkway next to Radius Glaisdale in Flagstaff allows friends and family of residents to see them from a safe distance during the Covid outbreak.

Level 4 tours were through a window, but at level 3 men can have a cup of tea outside the unit, women on a nearby aisle.

“The good thing is we don’t have to walk,” said Robert Cooper with a chuckle.

He and Joan Cooper got married 64 years after meeting at a ball in Gisborne.

Their family has grown to three children and now includes seven grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

While living in Kaipaki, Robert Cooper trained racehorses, and the couple also traveled the world and toured New Zealand in a motorhome.

“I just miss him and wish I could have him at home,” Joan Cooper said.

Christel Yardley / Waikato Times

“We just wanted to let them know we’re still here,” said Shirley Ratcliffe, left. Staff at the Radius Glaisdale dementia unit notice residents are more settled after seeing their families, facility manager Anish Rosevilla said.

Ratcliffe and Cuthbert also encountered dancing.

He was driving from Tauranga for groups to the Hamilton Workingmen’s Club on Saturday evenings.

The two had lost their spouse and, although not having a romantic relationship, “we’ve been looking after each other for years,” Ratcliffe said.

Being able to see yourself, even from afar, is huge, she says.

“I can come every day and it makes me exercise, and it helps me as well as he does. “

Remote visits often leave residents with a big smile, said facility manager Anish Rosevilla.

Understanding the lockdown can be difficult for people in dementia care.

Seeing loved ones – even from afar – helps reassure and relax them, and staff are seeing the benefits as well.

Aimee Lockie and her 9-year-old son Carter noticed a resident's face light up as they waved to her as they passed Radius Glaisdale.  A Lockie social media post has now started a trend of people walking around daily to brighten up residents' days.

Christel Yardley / Tips

Aimee Lockie and her 9-year-old son Carter noticed a resident’s face light up as they waved to her as they passed Radius Glaisdale. A Lockie social media post has now started a trend of people walking around daily to brighten up residents’ days.

Residents also commented on the waves and extra smiles from passers-by, the result of a social media post by local woman Aimee Lockie.

During a walk on Tuesday with his 9-year-old son Carter, they spotted residents of Radius Glaisdale through the window and waved to them.

“A woman’s whole face lit up,” so Carter decided more people should do the same, Lockie said.

His social media post to this effect received several hundred likes, and on the next day’s walk, a resident told him “so many people passed by today and they all waved at me… that’s Magnificent “.

Meanwhile, Carter was planning a large cardboard sign to help communicate with residents, and on Thursday filed letters for them.

Residents have stayed connected in other ways, Rosevilla said, including virtual vacations.

One was a video of a South African safari, which ended with a South African-style meal in the kitchen of the nursing home.

“When we went to level 3 they had take out pizzas because it was a big change that everyone was having and we didn’t want our residents to miss it,” Rosevilla said.

Pet therapy and family pets can’t get in, so the maintenance man has built an aviary for the newly purchased African lovebirds.

There’s also an online church, letters from grandchildren, and special celebrations for birthdays and other occasions during the lockdown – complete with masks and social distancing.


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