How Senior Living Centers Are Doing 1 Year After The Pandemic

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It was trivia night at Avenida Naperville when we recently visited.

Laughs filled the common area at the active senior living space as friends gathered for the event.

It was a far removed sight from the one Avenida experienced last spring. Just one month after their official opening, statewide shutdowns began due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senior Living Centers Closures

“March 13 we got word that we needed to close our doors to visitors, and we could no longer have group programs or activities for our residents,” said Avenida Naperville’s Executive Director Michele Clemen.

Clemen added that those restrictions were followed through June 1, and were slowly relaxed throughout the year.

Creative Events During Lockdown

During the lockdowns the active senior living center wanted to keep residents’ spirits up so they got creative.

“We had happy hour,” said Avenida Naperville Resident Marie Gianos. “Jane and Michele would bring the tray and knock on our door and we had to dress up. I would turn my music up because it was wine day. I would just turn up my music really loud and open the door and they hand you your thing. [They said] ‘goodbye’ and close the door and that was it.”

Avenida was also able to spread some holiday cheer with their merry mixer event last year.

But it was hard to have holiday spirit last year as COVID-19 cases and deaths spiked.

IL COVID-19 Statistics

To date over 1 million residents in Illinois have tested positive for COVID-19, with the virus claiming 22,000 lives. The overwhelming amount of those deaths has come from those ages 60 and above.

Avenida Naperville, which is home to residents 62-years-old and above, say they have not had one single case of COVID-19 from residents or staff.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case at St. Patrick’s Residence Nursing and Rehabilitation, which lost over 30 residents to the virus.

“They were all very near and dear to us,” said Sister Anthony the director of mission integration at St. Pat’s. “Their families found it difficult because for at least a good nine months they weren’t able to come in. They didn’t have the ability to hug them, [or] touch them. So when we saw they were really ending their journey, quickly we would call the family and we told them to come in. We’d wrapped them in PPE, and get the right next to that bedside so they could be with them.”

St. Pat’s said they’ve been COVID free for 11 weeks.

COVID-19 Vaccine

A big part of that is because most of their staff and residents are vaccinated. So what has the COVID-19 vaccine meant to St. Pat’s?

“A life for our residents,” said Kate Marrero, the Administrator at St. Pat’s. “Trying to get back to normal. Trying to provide normalcy for our staff, residents, families, and community. It’s good, we’re moving forward.”

Avenida said a majority of their staff and residents have also been vaccinated.

Safety Measures Still In Place

At both St. Pat’s and Avenida, guests still must sanitize before they enter the building, are screened, and have their temperatures checked.

Masks are also required when inside both buildings, but for the most part, things at both spaces are back to how they were pre-pandemic.

It was Skilled Nursing Care Week when we visited St. Pat’s, a fitting theme to appreciate the heroes that work there.

“Our staff are the heroes, but our residents are the warriors because they fought their way back from the pandemic,” said Sister Anthony.

Naperville News 17’s Christian Canizal reports.


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