by Meadowood President & CEO Paul Nordeman
As I think back on this past year, I go back to March. And the first COVID-19 case in Pennsylvania was in our little town of Worcester, Meadowood’s “home town.” I look back on how we mobilized immediately as a team and from that point forward we cemented a team spirit to protect Meadowood. We’ve given all of our energy to that. And it’s been so inspiring for me to be a part of.
It started at the top with the leadership team, but then that spirit of protection became so pervasive, and doing what we had to do to fight this virus really brought us together. We broke down the walls, we just became Team Meadowood, and we didn’t have a departmental view any longer.
Working Side by Side
We already had a team work approach and cooperative manner among residents, board and staff, and it was so seamless for us to join to collectively work together.
I was impressed that so many residents came up and said, “Hey, we understand what you’re faced with and there’s not a guidebook for this. How can we help?” Their gratitude for everything that we were doing, and their participation, was just so refreshing.
The residents have even more appreciation for staff now than they already did because of all the sacrifices our team has made. And vice versa. Staff see that residents are willing to go side-by-side with them. Residents have delivered packages, sorted mail, sent out menus, acted as screeners. But more than that, both residents and staff have given of their spirit. It’s just so special. You can’t even describe it.
Not Social Isolation, Social Engagement
As we mobilized against the virus, we wanted to continue with a lifestyle that is important to our residents. We prioritized safe ways to keep residents socially engaged, so they would not feel isolated.
I think our biggest success through this has been how we were very upfront in our transparency, our frequency of communication and its comprehensive nature. We learned all these great new ways to communicate.
Right now, when I do a broadcast on Tuesday, it goes to 900 family members of our residents, along with the transcript. I hear from family in Colorado and California, who say, “I learn more about what’s going on 1,000 miles away than at my husband’s family’s community around the corner.”
Because we told residents exactly what we were doing, their support became so much stronger. We were already a close community, but those relationships have been cemented forever. It was such a natural spirit of collaboration that will have a lasting effect on our community. It will a lot be more long-lasting than this ugly COVID virus.
We’ve had our moments of sadness in losing residents. There are many more recoveries and success stories, but to lose even one beloved resident is very sad and difficult. But we’ve done everything that we could for them and their families. And our staff has been amazing. People say this situation is unprecedented. I say unimaginable.
Silver Linings to a Challenging Year
There will be some silver linings to all of this. We’ll carry some great lessons forward and integrate them into our lifestyle.
One of those lessons is about finding new ways to come together. People know now that they can virtually enjoy programs. Of course, we want to get back together in person, to look into one another’s eyes. But now we can combine that with very efficient, effective virtual experiences.
That will allow us to keep the family connection strong. Because we don’t just serve 500 residents, we serve 500 residents and their families and their extended families. We have the ability to communicate with those extended families all over the country. I had one resident tell me, “My kids are telling me before I know.” (Because they’re getting our communications and read them before the residents). Families can celebrate life together.
Lighting the Way Forward in 2021
We’re hopeful and excited about the vaccine. We’ve been given a tentative date of January 4th for it to arrive. We believe it’s very important to our having a successful 2021. We’re going to have campaigns of education and encouragement for everybody to take it. We hope to have everyone vaccinated in 3-6 months.
As I met with residents that moved in this year, I asked, ”It’s been a challenging year; did you do the right thing?” They all say “Absolutely.” You’ll never be alone at Meadowood, even during times of significant restrictions. We still find ways to be together in a socially distanced and safe way. The celebration of community will be more robust and more meaningful than ever.
Recently, I’ve begun to think about the power of light. I suggested “Caroling in the neighborhoods,” an event where every one of our residents has a real candle, that we light, and they step outside their doors, and stand there as we carol, going around the community. It’s about the light and brightness that we know will come in 2021. We have game-changers like the vaccine, and we have more education, and more awareness, and more cooperation from others. I see the bright light. And I see that Meadowood will get back and be stronger because of this experience. We’re going to move forward in a positive way. For an already strong community to think about being stronger, excites me. I’m very pleased to welcome the new year.