Silver Spring, MD -- When stay-at-home orders were enacted around the country in response to the coronavirus pandemic, simple things like buying toilet paper, getting exercise, and staying in touch with loved ones became difficult. But thanks to quick action taken by Erickson Living's management team and the staff at Riderwood, sheltering in place was much easier and more comfortable for the more than 2,500 retirees who live at the community.
Even before the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the U.S., Erickson Living enacted its emergency preparedness plan and assembled a task force, which met multiple times a day to review reports from the CDC as well as local health departments and governments. Safety measures, such as restricting nonessential visitors and screening staff and essential visitors for COVID-19 symptoms, were quickly put in place at all Erickson Living-managed communities.
"All across our family of communities, residents and staff are taking extraordinary steps to protect the health and safety of our loved ones, friends, neighbors, and caregivers," Erickson Living CEO Alan Butler wrote in a letter to all employees and residents. "Your support and willingness to help are an inspiration to us all—and a reminder that if we band together, we can overcome any challenge."
Plans in place
At Riderwood, the staff are working hard to enable residents to stay put in their apartment homes. Mail and newspapers are being delivered directly to residents' doors, and the staff even walk their dogs. Instead of risking exposure to the virus by going to the grocery store, Riderwood residents are fortunate to have meals delivered to their doors by the dining services staff.
"The dining team has done a great job with meals," says Riderwood resident Trudy Downs. "They have been tasty and much like we get normally in the dining rooms—we are well provided for and I look forward to dinner each evening."
Riderwood even set up a concierge service to help residents get basic supplies. People who ran out of necessities like shampoo, coffee, tea, or toilet paper could simply call the front desk and a staff member would deliver the items to their doors.
"The concierge service has been a very valuable resource in providing for the needs of residents for items they need so they do not have to go off of the property," Trudy says.
All levels of staff are pitching in to operate the concierge service and other essential functions.
"The speed and agility that our staff has shown to adjust to new protocols, create new procedures, even have their entire role temporarily reassigned to something completely different, show the dedication and perseverance our employees embody," says George Mishraky, Riderwood's director of sales.
Staying connected with friends and family is a challenge for everyone while social distancing measures are in place. Residents at Riderwood, of course, discontinued club meetings and other gatherings during the pandemic, but measures were put in place to help them stay connected and maintain some of their routines.
The community purchased two pro licenses for Zoom to enable residents to conduct club meetings and get-togethers virtually. Trudy Downs, who runs an iPad/iPhone class, helped to train her neighbors on how to host and attend meetings on Zoom. She also used the video conferencing platform for the wine and cheese gatherings she usually has with friends on Friday evenings.
"Now, we are getting together via Zoom and providing our own snacks and glass of wine as we engage in our regular get-together but at a social distance," Trudy says. "I also have kept in touch with a regular group of residents who meet monthly for lunch—now we meet via Zoom."
Becky Hedin also used Zoom for meetings of the ukulele group she runs on campus.
"We are working on a program titled 'Love, Ukulele Style,'" Becky says. "I've introduced some new easy songs via Zoom."
Riderwood's in-house TV station became a hub for communication and entertainment during the crisis.
"Our TV studio has completely revised its daily schedule to include a daily update from Executive Director Gary Hibbs, Great Courses educational programming, a relaxing show, a funny show, a movie every night, religious programming, and much more," says Amy Hahn, community resources lead coordinator at Riderwood.
The people who live at Riderwood enjoy giving back to the community, both on campus and beyond. So, of course, they pitched in during the pandemic. Hahn says residents spearheaded a "mask-a-thon" to make cloth masks. The hundreds of homemade masks were donated to a local hospital as well as to the staff working tirelessly at Riderwood.
"The goodness of people who live in the community is one of the good outcomes of this period," Trudy says. "Many neighbors looking out for one another, checking to see if anyone needs anything, people making face masks to keep others safe, and, in general, paying much more attention to the comfort and safety of others."
Community members deeply appreciated the efforts Riderwood's staff made to keep them safe and comfortable during the coronavirus pandemic. Mishraky says he and the rest of the staff received many emails and notes from residents expressing appreciation for their tireless work during the unprecedented period of sheltering in place.
"Residents have posted signs of thanks to staff on their doors and have taken to writing appreciation notes in chalk on the sidewalks," Mishraky says.
About Riderwood: Riderwood, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 120-acre campus in Silver Spring, Maryland. The not-for-profit community of more than 2500 residents is governed by its own board of directors, affiliated with National Senior Campuses, who provide independent financial and operational oversight of the community. Riderwood is located in Montgomery County. Additional information about Riderwood can be found at Riderwood.com
Written by Meghan Streit