It’s Party Time!! Springfield long-term care facilities celebrate end of pandemic isolation

Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 6:03 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The pandemic has been especially difficult for residents at long-term health care facilities. Placed under quarantine last March, they were isolated from their families and other residents in some cases.

So that’s why Tuesday was such a special day at one local care complex because of a special event put on by the Council of Churches.

”These folks have not seen their family, their friends or anybody for that matter since last year,” said Marc Truby, the Director of Development for the Council of Churches. “We’re here for them. It’s a celebration.

Some 200 residents of Wilson’s Creek and Brookhaven Nursing and Rehab Facilities gathered on their parking lot on Tuesday for what you’d probably call a picnic.

But residents kept referring to it as “freedom”.

There were food trucks and prizes, yummy Hurts donuts and 60′s rock music blaring.

And for a group of people who had been in quarantine for nine of the last 12 months, Tuesday was like VJ day in World War II...the end of a long battle and a chance to experience something many of them thought they might never see again.

“This is the moment,” Truby proclaimed.

“It feels like heaven,” said Wilson’s Creek resident Cindy Schultz.

These residents had already had to deal with physical and/or mental challenges before the pandemic hit. But suddenly they were turned into fish in a fish bowl, only able to experience the outside world through a window and unable to see or hug family and friends.

Former Springfield police officer Charles Beshears, who came to Wilson’s Creek because of a stroke he suffered not long before the pandemic, compared life inside the facility to an aspect of his career.

“It was kind of like being in a low-security prison,” he said with a laugh. “There’s times you just want to hit that fire-exit door and go.”

“We were looking for an end in sight,” added fellow Wilson’s Creek resident Donna Ables. “And every day there was nothing more but confinement. There was a lot of anxiety and depression.”

Wilson’s Creek Administrator Michael Huffman praised the residents for how the handled the prolonged isolation even though it was a difficult challenge.

“It caused more issues for some of them but it just really brought the staff and residents together to try and be a shoulder to lean on and take care of each other,” he said. “That’s one thing the pandemic taught us was to be more patient with each other. The government orders to lock down and not allow visitors was the hardest thing they had to experience. Most of the time they were very, very stir crazy. You’d look out the window and be able to see a car going down the street and you’re stuck inside of a building. So now it’s great that they just have a chance to feel normal and know people care about them.”

But after all that time in isolation, the freedom to go outside and travel places does take some getting used to.

“When I first did that I went to Price Cutter and I felt like I was getting away with something,” Beshears said. “It made me paranoid.

As you looked around at the celebration you could tell the residents were appreciating the little things from the chance to pet a dog or win prizes like chips, sodas or playing cards.

“We had a resident that had a pulled-pork sandwich and hadn’t had any interactions with her family and she just started crying because she was happy,” Huffman said. “She said, ‘I’ve not experienced something like this where I’m just out in the sunlight and have BBQ food and family, friends and staff members who care about me and taken care to make sure I was safe and taken care of.’”

After being isolated from not only the outside world but from each other at times during the pandemic, what many of the residents seemed to appreciate the most was just the chance to be together without their faces being obscured.

“Being able just to see a smile on a face,” Ables said. “It’s like a whole new world. It’s a special day.”

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