Heroes: Taos Retirement Village adjusts to 'new normal' with creativity, compassion

by Laura Bulkin
Posted 6/26/20

Our senior care facilities here in Taos have had to make lightning-fast adjustments over the past three or four months.

They had established a routine of caring for the physical and emotional needs of their residents, providing entertainment, social and cultural enrichment and more. Then suddenly they were thrust into the role of protecting the residents, calming fears and taking every possible precaution against infection.

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Heroes: Taos Retirement Village adjusts to 'new normal' with creativity, compassion

Posted

Our senior care facilities here in Taos have had to make lightning-fast adjustments over the past three or four months.

They had established a routine of caring for the physical and emotional needs of their residents, providing entertainment, social and cultural enrichment and more. Then suddenly they were thrust into the role of protecting the residents, calming fears and taking every possible precaution against infection.

Pamela Hovden is director of sales and marketing at Taos Retirement Village. She took time out of her busy schedule to talk with us about the many changes, and the ever-evolving new challenges associated with COVID-19.

What changes have you made since quarantine, in your approach and daily life at the retirement village?

Increased focus and training on infection control protocols. Higher frequency and level of detail on sanitation protocols. Focused and more intense scrutiny of potential outside sources for infection. Frequent communication (weekly, often twice weekly) communication to residents, their families and staff. Frequent research on the latest developments of COVID-19. Increased communication efforts with public health agencies (e.g., New Mexico Department of Health, local Public Health Office) and other health care facilities (e.g., Holy Cross Medical Center, Taos Living Center, Mountain Home Healthcare).

Creative and novel approaches to life enrichment activities for all residents (independent and assisted living) to address the long-term impact to their quality of life. Recognizing employee stress and offering small perks, including free meals, and the ability to purchase from our food suppliers.

How do you envision the long road to transition back - or the "new normal"?

To start, defining the "new normal" is hugely dependent on accurate and frequent testing, but more importantly access to a vaccine that is proven to be effective, is broadly implemented and affordable.

In New Mexico, Taos Retirement Village was an early adopter of safety protocols, essentially an extension (on steroids) of our seasonal flu protocols we had in place since October 2019. I anticipate TRV will be one of the last to relax restrictions on visitation (and any other outside areas of risk for exposure), while we continue our current pace of infection control/sanitation efforts.

As we learn more each day about infection risks, we will be challenged to define what the trigger points are to ensure the safety of our residents and staff. This will be done with guidance from regulatory agencies, but we will err on the side of caution.

Certain residents have embraced this time as a time for reflection and world reset. Simple pleasures are so important and people have slowed down to smell the roses, lilacs, peonies, etc. More meaningful contacts have resulted from this time. We want to continue to foster more of this.

Are there people you see as heroes of quarantine -- either staff members who've gone above and beyond, or patients/clients who've cheered up others?

All of our staff has stepped up and embraced our need to protect our residents as well as each other.

How are you, the staff and residents staying sane during quarantine?

In preparation for reopening the village center and bistro, we have been painting the happy Taos Blue on doors and windows to refresh our surroundings.

The meditation garden is in the back of independent resident Jean Smith's casita - it is such a lovely space. She rides her horse, Jackson, every week, and says she feels more at home riding him than walking.

[An art project] that our assisted living residents made [involved] our staff placing the signs out at our front entrance to remind folks to be safe.

[Around campus] we used clay for pottery, molded it onto the trees and decorated with found objects. In the near future, we are going to host a contest among the independent residents and we all will vote for our favorite, with a special price to be awarded. The bee box was created by our residents in assisted living and is providing a home for our native bees.

We are all trying to stay upbeat in the face of the ever-changing landscape. We continue to expand opportunities for both staff and villagers to move with socially distanced outside chair yoga, courtyard concerts and cookouts, picnics, prayers, meditation and gardening.

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