St. Gabriel’s Community provides innovative care during pandemic

St. Gabriel’s Community provides innovative care during pandemic

A rainbow bursting with color brings a smile to the face of Joyce Hanson, a resident at St. Gabriel’s Community in Bismarck, as she holds one of the hundreds of cards, drawings and letters that have been delivered to the nonprofit senior care community from around the state and country.

“It really brightens my day to know that people care and take the time to let us know, especially now,” Hanson said.

The “GramsForGrands” program is just one of several initiatives implemented by St. Gabriel’s Community to support its residents following restrictions on outside visitors and group activities at senior care communities nationwide due to coronavirus. Other programs are providing social, health and wellness, and spiritual care offerings in new and creative ways.

“Window visits” are scheduled so residents can see their family and friends. Staff help residents video chat and Facetime regularly with family members to stay in touch. Employees have found creative ways to keep residents active and engaged, such as hallway bingo with apartment doors open and “BYOC” (bring your own chair), rolling cart “happy hour,” craft time and sewing club with residents spaced well apart, and one-on-one walking and therapy programs. Staff spends time with residents’ playing cards and board games, assisting with scheduling grocery deliveries and additional errands.

Resident birthdays are celebrated with mini-birthday cakes made by St. Gabriel’s culinary team. Exercise class is hosted on in-house TV, with residents tuning in and participating in their apartments. St. Gabriel’s Spiritual Care Director is leading prayer services, which are broadcast, live to residents' TVs. Residents can visit the chapel in person for reflection and prayer with chairs spaced apart. St. Gabriel’s Spiritual Care Director also meets often with residents one-on-one.

Residents are reaching out to their neighbors, making soup and banana bread as a welcome treat. And they can still enjoy a visit to Claudia’s Bistro, St. Gabriel’s on-site café. While Claudia’s Bistro remains closed, we are set up for social distancing while enjoying complimentary coffee and snacks.

“We’ve made extra efforts to help our residents and their family members stay connected, and to provide positive, meaningful activities and support to our guests,” said Taylar Hack, Executive Director of St. Gabriel’s Community. “Our residents have really strengthened their friendships during this time. There is a true sense of camaraderie, and it’s wonderful to see how close our residents and staff have grown over the last few months.”

St. Gabriel’s Community is committed to quality care, recognized in the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Nursing Homes” reports, and also previously by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) for its achievements through the Quality Initiative Recognition Program. St. Gabriel’s Community is accepting new residents for long-term skilled nursing care, short-term care and rehabilitation, respite care and end of life care, as well as for its assisted living and basic care community which just celebrated its third anniversary.

While the community has always had well-established infection control policies in place, it has enhanced its procedures and safeguards in line with federal, state and local guidelines. Among these, staff are screened at the beginning of each shift and equipped with personal protective equipment. Residents have daily health screenings and have been given face masks.

Activities and therapy are held within social distancing guidelines. Connecting residents and their health care providers via telehealth is encouraged when possible. And all high-touch areas throughout the building are cleaned routinely.

St. Gabriel’s also is in regular communication with state and local health departments, as well as with a dedicated task force established by its parent organization Benedictine, which includes the sharing of best practices among its multi-state senior healthcare system, and access to medical expertise, infection prevention specialist, and supplies.

“Above all, our top priority is the safety, health and wellness of our residents and employees. We work very closely with families to support a safe, smooth transition to our community, with processes in place that help families and residents stay connected and informed,” Hack said. “We remain committed to providing life-enhancing care for our residents as well as valuable employment opportunities during this time.”

St. Gabriel’s continues to welcome new residents, with staff available to help residents move in, unpack their belongings and set up furniture, and programs in place to orient residents to their new home and meet neighbors within established guidelines. Virtual tours are available for those who would like to talk with staff or see apartment layouts and options.

New resident Pat Welch moved in to St. Gabriel’s Assisted Living community in April. Pat’s son Tim Welch, and his wife Donna LaQua-Welch, said St. Gabriel's was the ideal facility for their mother in the Bismarck-Mandan area. 

“Not only is the community nice, but the staff are kind and compassionate. I am fully confident in the care my mother is receiving,” said Tim Welch and Donna LaQua-Welch. “Safety was St. Gabriel’s main priority for all the residents, and we really appreciate St. Gabriel’s thoughtfulness.”

St. Gabriel’s Executive Director is grateful for the contributions and dedication of its employees, and for families who have been so supportive. “I’d like to thank all of our staff who has worked tirelessly and gone above and beyond to maintain the highest quality care and protect the health and wellbeing of our residents, who are like family to us,” said Hack. “It’s been a real team effort across all departments as we find innovative new ways to fulfill our mission.”

Chelsie Boeshans, MSOTR/L, CLT, is an occupational therapist and a Dementia Capable Care certified instructor at St Gabriel’s Community in Bismarck. Boeshans has more than 11 years of experience as a therapist and has a special place in her heart for individuals with cognitive dysfunction. Together with education, an understanding of the disease process, and skilled intervention, Boeshans believes we can improve the quality of life for those living with dementia.

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