The staff at ArchCare Senior Life is taking extra steps to be sure senior citizens are not forgotten on Staten Island during the coronavirus pandemic.
ArchCare Senior Life averaged a combined 65 senior visitors a day to its Staten Island locations at Carmel Richmond Healthcare and Rehabilitative Center, which was open six days a week, and St. Mark’s Adult Day Center, which was open five days a week, before the pandemic closed both centers in March.
Both centers are part of ArchCare’s Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) that brings all medical, social and other services needed by nursing home-eligible seniors to live independently or with loved ones. ArchCare is the continuing care community of the archdiocese.
In weekly calls to check on about 140 participants, ArchCare staff found seniors missed the interaction and activities at the center. The staff decided to bring part of the center to the seniors’ homes by packing and delivering a bag of goods from the center to the home to keep seniors engaged during the pandemic.
“We’ve been doing wellness checks since our centers have closed,” said Lauren Abate, Wellness Center manager. “We call everyone every week. There were times we called twice a week. We decided we could deliver some things to their homes. We can make some visits and give them something to keep them engaged and occupied if they’re bored.
“We want them to feel ArchCare is here for you and you’re not forgotten.”
Staff is packing and delivering bags to 15 to 20 homes per week, with items such as adult coloring books, paintbrushes, books, clay, crafts, yarn and crochet needles. In addition, staffers will place in the bag a small bottle of water and a few small packages of snacks like cookies and pretzels.
Supplies come from day center stockpiles and neighbor donations.
“They’ll ask for things when we call them,” Mrs. Abate said. “They miss the activities and coming to the center. Merchandise is left at a door or porch for the seniors to get.
“It’s been very successful. They’re very grateful for what we’re doing. We’re getting great feedback from families.”
The staff is taking it a step further by having a short parade of cars drive by a senior’s home to wish them a happy birthday. Employees are in the cars with signs to celebrate the occasion.
“We’re trying to make them feel special and not forgotten,” Mrs. Abate said.
Carolynn Riccardi’s 89-year-old mother, Rita Avallone, is suffering from advanced dementia and originally was visiting St. Mark’s three days a week before going to the centers six days a week at the time they closed.
“She’d come home happy and have something to look forward to,” Mrs. Riccardi said. “She was more alert and her awareness was a little better. They’re so loving and patient there. I’ve noticed a big change since she started going there.”
Ms. Avallone has been working at home with the craft supplies delivered by the staff.
“It’s amazing,” Mrs. Riccardi said. “This is such a tough time. They’ve made an unbearable situation bearable.
“They’re so on the ball there and do it quickly. You’re not leaving a message and waiting until the next day. I don’t feel alone in this. I know they’re there and I can cope with this. ArchCare is wonderful. I thank God I found out about this place.”
Mrs. Abate said they’re planning to keep calling and delivering things through the end of the pandemic. Once the centers open, seniors will be able to enjoy a hot lunch, snacks, water, coffee and tea as well as play games, do crafts, interact with each other and take trips.
“It keeps them occupied and engaged,” she said of the home deliveries.
“They look forward to our visits even if it’s outside to say hello in masks. It’s like getting a card in the mail. We’ll continue this as long as the centers are closed.”