Amid social distancing efforts by state officials, local churches now have fewer opportunities to serve a key population in the community: Those living in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.
Because the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions are the most susceptible to severe illness when contracting COVID-19, nursing home and assisted-living facilities throughout the state temporarily have barred visitors from personal contact with residents. This has halted community church ministry efforts in these facilities, such as in-person Bible studies and fellowship opportunities.
“At this time, due to the coronavirus, we are not allowing anyone into our community,” said Carol Sue Galloway, manager of Willow Creek Senior Living in Elizabethtown. “In the past, (local churches) have done quite a bit to support our residents and we look forward to the day we can once again have them into our community.”
Cassie Allen, executive director for Kensington Center in Elizabethtown, said while personal contact with assisted-living facility residents currently is off-limits, local churches have found ways to give back.
Allen said a few women’s ministries in the community have reached out to Kensington Center to sew fabric face masks for residents and staff. Some churches that have reached out include Parkway Baptist Church in Hodgenville and Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in Magnolia. She said Franklin Crossroads Baptist Church in Cecilia also has been a consistent supporter.
Last week, Severns Valley Worship Minister Andy Botts visited the court yard of Signature HealthCARE in Elizabethtown to perform gospel hymns for residents as they listened from the windows of their rooms. Botts was joined in performance by church members Emory and Leslie Riley.
As Botts strummed a guitar and the three church members sang in harmony, residents of Signature HealthCARE listened intently and some even sang along to the words.
Botts said it was a pleasure serving residents of the assisted living facility, even if it was from a distance. He said it is important to serve those most at-risk during this time of isolation.
“We know that due to the elderly population being so high risk, nursing homes and assisted living facilities were some of the first things to be shut down,” he said. “Isolation is hard for most everyone, especially the elderly.”
Signature HealthCARE of Elizabethtown CEO Israel Ray said the performance was a great way of serving residents while keeping a safe distance.
“A number of our elders could hear the beautiful music from their rooms inside and several even sang along,” he said. “It was a special time that our church community took to uplift the hearts of, not only our elders, but our stakeholders as well.”
Allen said churches and individuals looking to help assisted-living facility residents can mail supportive letters and cards or donate items such as craft or jewelry-making kits.
“They can donate anything the residents can do in their room on an individual basis,” Allen said.
Dona McCurry, owner of Tender Touch Heart and Home in Elizabethtown, said donating prizes for games of Bingo also would go a long way to help brighten the day of a facility residents. She suggested donating candy, hand creams and other inexpensive gifts.
“Just something small,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be anything big.’’