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Senior care facility using social media to share elderly residents' messages to families

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
Normandie Ridge shares a photo on its Facebook page of a resident holding a sign for friends and family. Credit: Normandie Ridge Senior Living Community

One senior care facility in York County is using pieces of paper and social media to reassure family members that their loved ones are doing just fine in this time of social distancing.

Normandie Ridge, a senior living community in West Manchester Township, has started sharing photos on Facebook of its elderly residents with messages of encouragement they've written to their friends and family. 

"For families, it's putting them at ease. Physically seeing them is much different than talking on the phone," said Lauren Deiter, the executive director for Normandie Ridge. "This is a very hard time, so it's just an upbeat thing to keep their mind off this."

Normandie Ridge shares a photo on its Facebook page of a resident holding a sign for friends and family. Credit: Normandie Ridge Senior Living Community

Normandie Ridge, like many other senior care facilities in York County, implemented visitor restrictions in an effort to protect those most vulnerable from coronavirus. Based on federal guidance, no visitors will be allowed into the facility, except for certain cases such as end-of-life situations.

Deiter said she came up with the idea for a daily, ongoing photo series featuring the residents and staff of the community.

"We wanted to make sure families could see their loved ones are happy," she said. "They all thought it was a great idea."

As the days progress, photos will be shared daily and feature not only residents but the Normandie Ridge staff.

Normandie Ridge shares a photo on its Facebook page of a staff member holding a sign. Credit: Normandie Ridge Senior Living Community

"There are those of us who have no choice coming in. We're going to be on the front lines," Deiter said. "We wanted to show today who our heroes are."

Community support for the social media project has been strong, with several family and friends of residents sharing their own signs and selfies in response. 

Despite social distancing having potential negative effects on the well-being of elders, Deiter said her staff has provided activities such as scheduled FaceTime calls and "buddy" check ups, in which department heads are assigned to build relationships and provide company to elderly residents.

"Just little things that can keep them uplifted," Deiter said. 

Normandie Ridge, located at 1700 Normandie Drive, is a senior care facility that offers nursing, personal care and independent living options for residents. 

More:'We're not isolated, look at us': York County residents adjust to social distancing

More:York County has first two confirmed cases of COVID-19

Sonia Rohrbaugh, an independent living resident of Normandie Ridge, said staff has given her and her husband, Dale, daily updates on the coronavirus. 

Despite recent developments with the spread of the coronavirus in Pennsylvania, she said she feels safe knowing staff members are doing all they can to protect the community and thinks visitor restrictions are a right step in that direction.

"We just knew this was going to impact everybody," Rohrbaugh said. "My one neighbor is in her 90s, and I call her every day to make sure she's OK."

A telephone town hall hosted Wednesday afternoon by Rep. Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township,  outlined how the community can help protect elders from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Lisa Rochia, the vice president of clinical and support services at Country Meadows Retirement Communities, spoke during the town hall and emphasized "aggressive prevention" and frequent hand-washing.

Normandie Ridge shares a photo on its Facebook page of a resident holding a sign for friends and family. Credit: Normandie Ridge Senior Living Community

Country Meadows, along with many other senior living facilities, has offered alternative activities to keeping social interaction to a minimum while helping seniors stay active.

Such activities included word games and brain puzzles, she said.

While many elders living through this pandemic might have anxieties, Rochia said the best way to support seniors is to comply with visitor restriction rules and practice social distancing. 

"Do not visit them. You need to stay away," Rochia said. "We don't want to inadvertently transmit that virus to them. This is really for their protection."

York County had its first two confirmed cases of COVID-19 as the state total topped 180 as of Thursday, rising by 52, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.