Nursing home residents pen sweet notes to families while visitation is closed amid COVID-19

EVERETT, Wash. – A nursing home in Snohomish County is using creativity to help lift the spirits of residents and staff, while visitation is closed during the coronavirus outbreak.

View Ridge Care Center in Everett hasn’t had visitors in weeks. The nursing home closed its doors to protect residents and staff from exposure to COVID-19. Pete Wolkin, owner and director of operations, said their center has unfortunately been much quieter than usual.

“ have done studies and they have shown that isolation can be really bad for people’s emotion as well as their physical health. So, staying engaged in the best way you can is good,” said Wolkin.

Now everyone at View Ridge is staying engaged with a few whiteboards and markers. The staff helps each resident write a personal message to their families and loved ones. Pictures of residents and their notes are posted on the nursing home’s Facebook page.

“There was some silliness, some happiness, a little bit of sadness. But all in all, everyone was happy to do it, loved the idea and we’ll probably keep doing it,” said Wolkin.

He also said the post has had more than 17,000 interactions.

“It’s been more than we expected, but it’s been great. And the residents really love it. They’re enjoying being viral in a good way,” said Wolkin.

88-year-old Minnie Elenor Huber has at least 1,000 likes on her picture. Part of her whiteboard message to loved ones read, “Take care of your families and stay safe every day.”

“I love each and every one of them,” said Huber about her children and grandchildren. “Love each other. You can patch up whatever it is. I just love people that love each other.”

Love for the employees also flooded the comment section.

“It’s been really hard this last couple of weeks for our staff. There’s almost no normalcy for anybody. So, everything’s different and it’s been tough for them. So, it’s really great from them to see the community engaging and responding in a positive way,” said Wolkin.

The nursing home is also using tools like FaceTime, Skype and Zoom so residents can stay in touch with their loved ones. Activities like bingo and board games are a huge hit at View Ridge.

The Kenny, a retirement community in West Seattle, is also receiving support from community members to help senior citizens stay engaged. Volunteers are signing up for The Kenny Pen Pal Program. Information on how to participate include:
• Handwritten letter introducing yourself and asking the resident questions about themselves
• Mail letter to “My Future Pen Pal” to 7125 Fauntleroy Way SW, Seattle, WA, 98136
• Include a return address

The Kenny staff will assign participating residents to a pen pal. They will also assist residents in writing their letter.