Mother’s Day is coming up on Sunday, but with the coronavirus pandemic, the holiday will look much different this year.
As senior homes across the country continue to stay shuttered to visitors, Valley View Assisted Living will hold a Mother’s Day “doorway” tea and bingo social for its 26 residents, 20 of them being mothers.
Stephanie Rodriguez, executive director at Valley View, said the residents, instead of gathering together in a group for tea and bingo, sit in their doorways to socialize.
“They really like it,” she said. “It is a great way for them to socialize, but still maintain appropriate social distancing.”
Rodriguez said the doorway concept is used for exercises and games as well.
But the restrictions from seeing loved ones on Mother’s Day are hard on everyone.
“I think any time you’re restricted from seeing a loved one is difficult, especially during a holiday like Mother’s Day,” Rodriguez said.
Nancy Burns, whose mother Shirley Mulcahy has been at Valley View for nearly three years, said having her mother at an assisted living facility is very difficult right now.
“I have a fear that she’ll pass during this time, and I won’t be there,” Burns said.
Burns said Mulcahy, who has dementia and will turn 89 this month, had just gotten through a flu scare in November before the outbreak of COVID-19.
In Oregon’s reporting data, deaths in long-term care facilities account for over 50% of all COVID-19 deaths. Residents of nursing homes tend to have underlying health conditions, live in close contact with others and rely on person-to-person interactions.
Many people have seen their lives dramatically change and are coping the best they can.
But for people like Burns’ mother, her cognitive health depends heavily on social engagement. Studies have shown activities such as regular bonding with loved ones, learning new skills and interacting with friends can slow the progression of memory loss.
“She’s losing her words again,” Burns said.
Burns said, while some people visit their family members through the apartment windows at Valley View, she decided that would confuse her mother and have unintended consequences.
Despite the difficulties, Burns said there are positive things to remember as well.
Just before the outbreak, Burns said she brought in music tapes for her mother to listen to, and that has helped. The tapes are of an artist who used to work with the Beach Boys that bring back a lot of good memories for her mother.
The view Mulcahy has from her room helps a lot as well.
“She has the best view of the whole place,” Burns said.
Tara Cole, whose mother Sandra Hehn is at Valley View, said her experience overall has been positive.
Cole said her mother lived alone prior to living at Valley View and that she would be very worried right now if she were still living by herself.
“We know it is for the best, and she is getting great care from the staff. It has been hard emotionally for my mom as she prefers to leave the facility periodically and has not not been able to have visitors,” Cole said. “We remind her by phone daily that it is for the best, and she understands that.
Cole, who lives in Idaho, said Memorial Day weekend is when her family gets together in Grant County to visit her mother and celebrate Mother’s Day, but she said she does not see the restrictions being lifted by then.
She said, however, that it did give her peace of mind that the restrictions were making her mother safer.
“This is the population we need to be protecting right now,” she said.