Even the most tranquil watery divide needs to be navigated with skill and care. Crossing expanses made turbulent by weather or obstacles beneath the surface demands levels of skills and care beyond those of mere novices.
The last year has been anything but smooth sailing. This has been particularly true for senior communities across the country. But some, like Apostolic Christian Home of Eureka (ACHE), have seen their residents through the ongoing storm, proving their love and skill will keep their ship upright and sailing true.
Keeping Spirits High
As difficult as it is and has been for staff at Apostolic Christian Home of Eureka over the past several months, those who truly call it home have had it particularly tough.
A three-year resident of ACHE, Elizabeth “Liz” Blunier describes her own experiences over the last year: “It is so different than anything I have experienced before.
It has been pretty hard on me not being with my family. I have a big family and we were used to spending time together and then all at once to be cut off from them is not easy. We are a close family.”
“The main thing is keeping your spirits up,” she adds. “It means you can get through it. I stay hopeful that I will get to go to church again and be with my family.”
Dorothy Schmidgall, an ACHE resident of four years, echoes the sentiments of her neighbor when it comes to looking on the bright side as well as the vital role family plays. “I’ve stayed busy with books on tape and with each of my five kids calling me every day,” she states. “Talking to them daily really helps. I like to focus on the good and not dwell on the not so good.”
Another resident, Anna McCloud, has seen how far focusing on the good can carry one. At 104 years of age, she witnessed the last pandemic sweep the world—the dreaded Spanish influenza outbreak of 1918. Although a very little child at the time, her memories mixed with her mother’s recollections stand as a poignant lesson for all.
“The big difference I can see,” Anna says, “is now when you get sick they plan on how to care for you. Back then if you got sick they planned for your funeral.”
Anna, only 2 years old at the time, contracted the flu and suffered from a high fever and convulsions. “They would put me in hot water for a bit and then dunk me into ice water. This was supposed to get my fever down. I also recall my doctor—Dr. Nicoles—it was amazing what he could do with nothing, not even penicillin.”
That same doctor said if Anna survived she would be able to survive anything and would no doubt live a long life. Dr. Nicoles was, thankfully, exactly right.
Both then and now, hope, positivity, and the best care available make all the difference.
All Hands on Deck
Any ship is only as good as those who crew her. Their mettle is especially tested in inclement times like those recently experienced. Director of Nursing Holly Bauman, RN, says weathering the storm is due to a joint effort. “I have been pleased by the cooperation shown by our residents and families and the teamwork that has been displayed by our staff,” she says. “Of course, it has been difficult and stressful, but the attitudes of all involved have been positive. Our staff has been ready and willing to face the challenges in order to keep our residents healthy and safe.”
The biggest challenge has, of course, been closing ACHE to visitors. Not only has it been difficult for the residents, the staff has also built relationships with those visiting family members over the years and have missed seeing them.
Holly is unabashedly proud of and impressed by the residents’ resilience through it all. “Their generation has been through difficult times and they have learned to work through difficult situations with patience and grace,” she extols. “To many of them this is just a small hurdle in their life. I have learned from them and hopefully can carry on some of their excellent attributes.”
Her pride doesn’t end there. “Our staff has been amazing through this pandemic,” she beams. “Most were asked to go above and beyond and step out of their comfort zone over and over. Our staff stepped up and endured a faster pace and challenging workload for many months without complaint. Our staff is truly here to love and serve our residents, and that has shone brightly in the last nine months.”
She gets no argument from the residents themselves. “The staff has done wonderfully,” says Liz. “They try to encourage everybody, and they couldn’t have done more than they did. I really appreciate the small touches like them helping to set up the iPad so I could watch a friend’s funeral.” “They’ve done very well,” adds Dorothy.
“They try hard at everything, especially for the conditions we had.”
Love Sees No Barriers
Despite the struggles, there is an air of optimism at ACHE, helped in no small part by the vaccinations half of the staff and three-quarters of the residents have already received. “The vaccine brings us hope for the future after many months of unknowns,” says Administrator Kim Joos.
Winter brings with it its own obstacles, of course. During the summer, residents and their families were able to enjoy visiting outdoors. With the onset of colder weather, however, the ways to keep loved ones together and still maintain mandated distancing became a challenge.
“One of our board members came up with the idea for the visiting cottage,” Kim reveals. “We have named it the Fireside Cottage. It has a full glass wall between two 12-by-12 rooms and a speaker system between the two rooms. This allows for the residents and families to feel like they are together. The speaker system makes it possible for them to talk together and for all involved to be able to hear. There are separate entrances for each side of the cottage and no direct contact between the resident and the families. So it is very safe and provides a comfortable place for residents and families to visit.”
Clear Skies Ahead
“Staying positive is very important,” Kim states. “I have been very impressed with how the residents and families have handled it. I believe largely that this can be attributed to their faith and trust in God to help them through each day. Also, our residents are part of a strong generation that has endured many trials that have made them stronger. They have seen times of war, financial difficulties, sickness, loss of family members, etc. These past experiences give them the strength to persevere in this trial as well.”
The residents and staff have developed a truly symbiotic relationship over the past year, Kim adds. While the staff has been phenomenal in caring for the residents, the example of positivity set by the residents has done wonders keeping the staff in good spirits.
“We have always had a family atmosphere and excellent connections between our staff and residents but that has grown even stronger during this time,” Kim concludes. “As the staff care for the residents they develop a bond that ties them together and they help to lift each other up.”
Onboard the good ship known as Apostolic Christian Home of Eureka the operative word of the last year has certainly been positivity. Without the right attitudes exhibited by everyone from the staff to the residents and their families, and the tireless efforts and love put forth by all, it would have been all too easy to succumb to the doldrums of 2020.
Although the seas in the immediate vicinity may still be roiling and storm clouds keep gathering even as we enter a new year, those at Apostolic Christian Home remain vigilant and positive, with eyes always scanning for a clear horizon ahead.
A five-star rated retirement community, Apostolic Christian Home of Eureka is located at 610 W. Cruger Avenue in Eureka, Illinois. Please visit us at www.each.org or contact us at (309) 467-2311. At Apostolic Christian Home of Eureka your care is our calling.
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