Evangelistic Temple Learning Center
Children from Evangelistic Temple Learning Center wave at residents quarantined inside their rooms at Greenbrier Nursing of Palestine. The children made crafts and delivered them to Greenbrier and three other nursing homes in Palestine last week as a community service project.EVA

A welcome break from a four-month COVID-19 quarantine came for Palestine’s nursing home residents earlier this week with surprise visits from children in Evangelistic Temple’s summer daycare program.

Roughly 60 children and caregivers from the center boarded buses and visited four nursing care facilities in Palestine Tuesday morning. They walked around the outside of each building, waving and singing joyfully to residents. Coordinated with volunteers and residents of Rock Bottom Ranch, the visit was a community service project aimed to boost the residents’ spirits and help them feel loved.

State quarantine precautions currently forbid family and other visitors from entering nursing facilities, so the outdoor events provided a welcome break. Wearing color-coordinated T-shirts, the children walked from window to window, waving, talking, and singing to residents inside their rooms. 

Some children put their faces against window screens to peer inside the rooms, where residents have spent most of their time since March, without contact from anyone but caregivers. Each visit to the four skilled nursing homes lasted just 30 minutes, but residents were grateful.

“It was wonderful,” said Ed Charley Francis, 73, a resident of Greenbrier Nursing of Palestine for two years, who became tearful during the visit.

The children also visited Legacy at Town Creek (formerly Cartmell Home for the Aged), TruCare Living Centers Palestine, and Palestine Healthcare Center.

The outreach included a craft project. One week before arriving, the children decorated roughly 200 crosses with tissue paper and glitter as gifts to residents. Caregivers discussed the importance of the visit with children throughout the prior week.

Nursing home residents have been hit hard by the quarantine, which has discouraged visits, shuttering them from the outside world. Visits from family members and volunteers have been forbidden for more than four months, putting residents at risk for lack of mobility and psychosocial issues such as increased isolation. 

Esmerelda Lewis, activity director at Greenbrier, said she tries to provide daily activities inside rooms, but also in hallways or around the perimeter of the dining room.

“We try to keep them busy,” she said, with crossword puzzles, puzzle stations, and games like bingo.”

Lewis also uses Zoom, an internet platform that allows people to conference from a distance, and Facetime calls via smart phones to facilitate residents’ communication with family members. Residents also eat meals and perform exercises in their rooms. 

The quarantine is continuing this month because COVID-19 has caused most deaths among the elderly and persons with underlying medical conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

CDC reports that eight out of 10 COVID-19 deaths have occurred in persons 65 and older. On Friday, CDC reported roughly 4.5 million cases of COVID-19 in the US and about 150,000 deaths. 

While quarantines in other businesses have been lifted, they are continuing this month in elder care facilities due to the high risk of death. 

“[The residents] have taken it so well so far, but everyone wants it to be over,” said Patty Ridings, Greenbrier’s admissions coordinator.

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