Celebrating Christmas at the Manor

By: 
Meredith Tolley

Submitted photo

This ‘hugging booth’ at Weston County Manor is one of two that were built to provide families an opportunity to have physical contact without risk of spreading COVID-19. Meredith Tolley, Manor activities director, said that, per CMS guidelines, the Manor must go two weeks straight with no positive COVID-19 cases from staff or residents to open the building to supervised visitations inside.

Meredith Tolley

Weston County Manor Activities Director

 

The Wyoming Department of Health and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services placed COVID restrictions on Christmas activities and visitations at Weston County Manor. Despite the restrictions, the Manor staff have been doing their best to put the residents in good spirits.

“We have an amazing team of activities, CNA and nursing personnel here at the Manor that have really come together to spread holiday cheer throughout the facility. Even with the restrictions, we are doing everything we can to still carry out ‘normal’ Christmas traditions,” Manor Activities Manager Meredith Tolley described.

The facility has been closed to visitors, communal dining and most group-conducted activity since March.

When residents leave their rooms, they are highly encouraged and educated on the importance of making sure they have their masks on and are remaining six feet from others. Per CMS guidelines the Manor must go two weeks straight with no positive COVID-19 cases from staff or residents to open the building to supervised visitations inside. The levels of COVID-19 positive cases within the community also play a huge part in restrictions as well. Therefore, it is so important for staff, families, and community members to be doing their part, for example washing hands, wearing masks, remaining six feet from others, and not gathering in large groups.

“The COVID-19 restrictions have been extremely difficult on our residents, and our staff has worked extremely hard to go above and beyond to provide the love, support, and interaction for our residents that they need. The holiday season has been especially hard with our residents not being able to see their loved ones. Our residents would love to be able to see their families,” Tolley said. “I wanted to point out that our restrictions are put in place by CMS and the Wyoming Department of Health. We receive all of our guidance from them — these aren’t just rules we make up ourselves from the Manor team or administration. If we are not compliant with the restrictions that are put into place, our facility could get a serious citation. We have routine (random) visits from the Wyoming Health Department to ensure that all their protocols are in place and being followed.”

To help the residents keep in touch with their families the Activities Department has roughly 200 total video calls and supervised visitations with residents and their families each month to help them stay connected. Putting pictures on the Weston County Health Services Facebook page is one way the activities staff have been able to keep in touch with friends in the community. 

Also, Manor staff have gone above and beyond with Christmas decorations, especially Certified Nursing Assistant Jackie Woltemath, making some residents smile like they have not seen in months. Recently, there was a door decorating contest where staff participated with the residents and were able to decorate every door in the Manor. Her department along with members of the dietary team made sugar cookies and frosting by scratch for everyone to enjoy.

Two weeks ago, the residents dressed nice for a picture to make Christmas cards gifts for their families. Traditionally the annual Christmas party is the biggest party of the year, however since they are not able to have it this year a male staff member agreed to dress up like Santa. He will be accompanied by a reindeer (aka his dog) for the Christmas Eve dinner and will deliver presents to each resident.

After the holidays, Manor staff are looking forward to hopefully being two full weeks with negative COVID results so families of residents can start coming into the facility for indoor visitations. The maintenance department as well as an employee from Bomgaars have made two hugging/visiting booths that they are really looking forward to utilizing with residents and their families.

The community has also been especially giving this holiday season. The Sagebrush Sisters donated personalized gifts for each of the 50-plus residents. The Newcastle High School Choir created a DVD of them singing Christmas Carols that will be played over each resident’s TV the week of Christmas. A sixth grade class donated Christmas decorations they made specifically to decorate the residents’ rooms. The Newcastle eighth grade class all wrote letters for the residents to keep them company this time of year! Multiple churches within the community, families of residents and other organizations have donated Christmas cards and other Christmas gifts.

“We continue to be so thankful that so many members of our community have been this generous in thinking of our residents this time of year!” Tolley proclaimed.

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