The concept of the proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” has been applied to myriad situations over the years. In general, the idea is that some situations require the efforts of an entire community to bring about the desired result. Recently, Grant Linacre, the executive director at Emerald Heights, used the phrase “It takes a village” when talking about the collective efforts of people within and beyond the Emerald Heights community to help residents not only limit their exposure to the coronavirus but also maintain a positive attitude. Offering care and peace of mind during crisis is critical, while everyone adapts to the precautions put in place to protect them.
Countless individuals—from the chaplain, the fitness program coordinator, and other members of the Emerald Heights staff, to volunteers at local civic organizations, employees of businesses in the area, and even residents themselves—have found creative ways to contribute, provide comfort, and keep the community connected.
“Our residents have really risen to the challenge,” Grant said. “I think that in any time of challenge, our residents—and their generation overall—really have that esprit de corps, a sense of banding together, because of the things they’ve gone through. They’re amazing in their willingness to help out wherever they can and make this all work.”
Grant believes that transparency has been crucial in dealing with COVID-19 at Emerald Heights. As soon as the management team became aware of potential risk for residents or staff, they communicated that information to everyone in the community. They announced the first positive case in the community the same day they found out about it, along with the steps that had already been taken to keep residents safe.
Residents can rest assured that, through these various channels, they are receiving the most current COVID-19 information available from local, state, and federal authorities, as well as the latest word on how the coronavirus is affecting the Emerald Heights community and what they can do personally to reduce their risk. All residents are also encouraged to reach out by phone or by email to staff members, including Grant if they have questions or concerns about how the community is working to lower their risk of exposure.
Many residents have expressed their appreciation for the open and ongoing communication. Others have said how happy they are that the staff has found ways to help them stay connected with friends, family, and each other. And several have remarked that they feel better protected at Emerald Heights than they would elsewhere, including their previous home.
In fact, Jackie Claessens, the marketing and sales director at Emerald Heights, has received emails from future residents and depositors who’ve kept up with what’s going on at Emerald Heights and the various efforts that have been undertaken to keep residents safe, and they say they can’t wait to live here because of the way the current situation has been handled.
Initially, with guidance from official sources about the coronavirus changing so rapidly, management at Emerald Heights focused on implementing some of the more extreme precautionary changes (such as restricting visitors and having the staff wear face masks) to the skilled nursing and assisted living areas of the community. But when Gov. Inslee issued the stay-at-home proclamation, many of those same measures were extended to the independent living campus as well.
At first, according to Grant, that heightened level of concern was met with a degree of skepticism; some thought it wasn’t necessary to take such severe steps. But as the number of infections community-wide plateaued and then began to decrease, Grant said he started hearing comments from residents along the lines of, “Thanks for doing everything you’re doing. It makes us feel safe.” Even the majority of the staff has said they feel safer at Emerald Heights than they do at home or out in the surrounding community.
Grant acknowledged that as time wears on, and as the weather improves and people are eager to be outside, residents’ patience is being tested—especially now that some positive news about containing the coronavirus is starting to circulate. But he remains circumspect.
“We’re hearing good things because we’re doing the right things, and it’s important now to maintain doing those things—social distancing and such,” he said.
One of the main reasons people find living in a Life Care community like Emerald Heights so appealing is that they know there’s a lot less to worry about. That’s true at any given time, and perhaps even more so during times like this. People feel secure, knowing they have a safety net for as long as they live in the community: unlimited lifetime access to on-site, long-term health care, should they need it.
Other reasons people are drawn to Emerald Heights are the lifestyle, of course, and the camaraderie that exists among the people who live here.
Despite the current need to observe social distancing guidelines, there are still opportunities to stay active and connect with others. For example, many residents are enjoying live-streamed fitness classes, as well as life enrichment activities and spiritual enrichment services, all of which are available on the community’s in-house TV channel (which, incidentally, is run entirely by residents). It’s a great way to get moving and get motivated, and those who are participating have the chance to safely chat with one another before the class, activity, or service begins. Staff members also have been recording fitness videos, which residents can access whenever they want on the internal website through YouTube.
As another way to help ward off feelings of loneliness or isolation, the staff has been encouraging residents to make phone calls, send emails, and have video chats. There’s even a dedicated group of resident volunteers who can provide remote technical assistance to those who need it.
“In a community like this, there’s a lot more connection than isolation, even now,” Grant noted. “It’s awesome to see people rising to the occasion and helping each other out. That’s absolutely one of the benefits of living in a [continuing care retirement community].”
While it’s true that Emerald Heights is similar to other retirement communities in some ways, such as the maintenance-free lifestyle and the availability of a continuum of care, Emerald Heights has some distinctive advantages. Owned and governed locally, with robust financial resources, Emerald Heights is uniquely positioned to quickly respond to and support the community’s needs in any situation. Lately, that capability has proved invaluable.
Another advantage is that staff turnover is very low at Emerald Heights—many of those who work here have been with the community for over a decade. Being able to rely on friendly, familiar staff helps new residents feel at home right away and lets all residents know they are well-supported.
Naturally, the best way to experience Emerald Heights is in person, but for now, we’re restricting visitors to the community—for everyone’s protection. Until we can safely resume our usual tours, there are other ways you can stay connected with us:
Ask Grant Linacre and he’ll tell you that, thanks to the collective efforts of so many, even during a pandemic Emerald Heights is “a pretty good village to live in.”