Nursing homes get creative to celebrate Thanksgiving

  • Teddy Rosenbluth—CMC

Concord Monitor
Published: 11/25/2020 8:02:40 PM
Modified: 11/25/2020 8:02:36 PM

Along with isolation gowns and masks, Lynda Goldthwaite invested in an inflatable hippo costume at the beginning of the pandemic.

As the executive director of Pleasant View Center, a nursing home in Concord, she feels personally responsible for keeping morale in the facility high — Henry the hippo had never failed to lift spirits.

“I would show up during hallway dance parties and just dance as Henry the hippo,” she said. “You have to inject fun into everyday life.”

The last couple of weeks have been especially difficult for her staff and residents. After months without seeing their loved ones, residents had just started indoor visits — only to have them promptly canceled due to increasing community transmission of the virus.

As Thanksgiving approached, Goldthwaite was the bearer of more bad news. She had to tell her staff they couldn’t travel out of state unless they had 14 days of vacation saved up to quarantine after their return. She had to tell residents, many of whom look forward to the holidays the entire year, they would be eating turkey on plastic trays in their rooms rather than in the festive dining room with their families.

To deal with an unprecedented amount of distress, Goldthwaite enlisted the help of an unprecedented number of inflatable costumes.

Unicorns, sharks, aliens and turkeys paraded around the perimeter of Pleasant View Center on Tuesday as marching band music blared over loud speakers. Residents were carefully spaced 6 feet apart and wrapped in blankets to watch the festivities from the sidewalk. Two staff members — the dinosaur and alien — held a custom printed sign that read “gratitude is the new attitude.”

The modest parade took the facility weeks to plan. Goldthwaite held several meetings with their planning committee to determine how to balance safety and celebration — none of their typical traditions would hold up to the home’s strict COVID-19 precautions. The team landed on a sort of Macy’s parade, except in their rendition, the staff members were the balloons. Goldthwaite expects this type of planning to continue well into December.

“As soon as we close up shop for the parade, we’re going to launch right into what we are going to do for Christmas,” she said.

Pleasant View Center has been relatively lucky during the pandemic. They haven’t experienced the outbreaks that have ravaged other New Hampshire nursing homes.

When Katie Goodwin, a recreation therapist at the New Hampshire Veterans Home, answered the phone on Friday, the National Guard was in the building helping test all of the residents for the COVID-19. The facility was in the midst of an outbreak that infected 40 residents and killed four.

“Honestly, we’re trying to really stay positive, “she said. “It’s definitely hard for them and you can tell as time goes on that it’s getting harder.”

To celebrate the holiday this year, Goodwin made gratitude trees for each unit of the facility in which residents and staff can scribble what they’re thankful for on each on the paper leaves. Some of the leaves are silly — “I’m thankful for toilet paper,” one read. Others offer a sober look into the lives of nursing home residents, many of whom have watched their friends moved into the COVID ward of the facility.

“I’m thankful to still be alive during this mess,” another read.

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