The Loughran family of Bucks County describes how the COVID-19 pandemic increased the emotional challenge of moving their father into a personal care residence, and how the staff at Pine Run Lakeview helped to ease the transition
A difficult decision for many families under even the best of times, moving an aging parent into a personal care setting during a global pandemic presents particular challenges. The Loughran family of Bucks County learned that firsthand in March 2020, as they moved patriarch John “Jack” Loughran into Pine Run Lakeview in Doylestown. Personal care settings are similar to assisted living, providing support where needed in bathing, dressing, meals, medication management, and other areas.
Jack, 92, and a widower for several years after the 2007 death of his beloved wife Bette, was fiercely independent and active well into his late 80s. After a battle with cancer, increasing memory challenges, and then a stroke at age 89 that impacted his ability to communicate, Jack’s six children knew they could no longer provide the support and level of care that Jack needed at home. Son Michael, who lives in Doylestown, and his siblings knew they needed to find other arrangements.
“We wanted to keep dad nearby, so my siblings and I started looking locally for care,” Michael Loughran said. “We were immediately impressed with Lakeview’s connection to Pine Run and the Doylestown Health continuum of care, especially considering dad’s history of cancer and dementia.”
Pine Run Offers Continuum of Care
Michael knows very well the care and connection the Pine Run staff shows to every resident. Many years ago, he served as a nursing aide in Pine Run Health Center’s dementia care neighborhood, The Garden. After visiting Pine Run Lakeview, the rest of the Loughran family also was convinced. They were pleased with the warm family environment, outdoor spaces, and the backyard garden patio. They could just picture having meals in the dining room and visiting with Jack on the deck. In addition, Lakeview’s secure neighborhood for memory care, The Arbor, provided the security and understanding Jack would need.
Jack’s stroke had left him with aphasia, an impairment of language that affects the production and/or comprehension of speech as well as the ability to read or write. He couldn’t drive any longer and was homebound. For several years after the stroke, his adult children coordinated activities and visits. They arranged for companion care services to keep him company and keep him active during the day. He enjoyed the companions’ visits and would often have projects to do with them. In addition, on a rotating schedule, one of his children would have dinner with him every night, sometimes at his house, sometimes at theirs.
As Jack’s dementia progressed, he became less active. When his children or companions didn’t encourage him to get up and do things, he was content to just sit and pass the time. It was in that last year that Jack started to lose his orientation to time; he would wake up in the middle of the night and get dressed for the day. It was also during this time when Jack began to wander and had a fall.
In November 2019, Jack’s children began searching for an increased level of care. By March 2020, they decided to take Jack to Pine Run Lakeview. But they had no idea that a pandemic was about to hit the United States.
“I can’t begin to tell you how anxious we were about taking dad to a personal care residence,” said Michael Loughran. “And of course, we didn’t know then that just two days later, Pennsylvania would basically shut down.”
COVID Pandemic Hits Pennsylvania
The night they arrived at Lakeview, Michael’s brother John accompanied Jack. Jack was angry about not returning to his home. John began to well up with tears as he explained to his dad that Lakeview was the best place for him now. Jack’s anger softened, and he hugged his son, saying, “It’s going to be all right.”
Two days after Jack moved into Lakeview, Pennsylvania issued stay-at-home orders to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, and, following regulations issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the state Department of Health, Pine Run had to end visits by family members to the residents of its locations, including Lakeview. Suddenly, the Loughrans, who had spent months coming to the decision that their father needed a higher level of care, were unable to see for themselves in person how he was adjusting to his new surroundings.
“This was a family that had taken a long time to make the decision to move their dad into care, and it was an extremely difficult time,” said Juliet Kozak, Director of Social Services and Admissions at Pine Run Lakeview. “They came in and set up his room and brought his belongings. They gave him a hug and said ‘We’ll see you tomorrow.’ And then visits closed.”
Pine Run Staff Rallies to Keep Families Connected
But Pine Run devised innovative visiting solutions to help families keep in touch with their loved ones during the lockdown period. Staff members shared pictures with family members and helped arrange phone calls and video calls through Zoom and Facetime. It was through Facetime calls that the Loughran family began to be reassured that Jack was adjusting just fine.
“During Facetime chats, he was always smiling from ear to ear and telling us about all of the activities and programs going on. He loves the staff there,” Michael Loughran said. “Even during the lockdown, we could see that Lakeview was having a positive impact on Dad’s health. We could see our Dad starting to come back.”
As the pandemic dragged on, Lakeview staff set up a bench outside a window at the end of one of the hallways, so families could see their loved one in person but be safely separated by the exterior windows. Then, as Pennsylvania shifted from the red phase to the yellow phase of pandemic mitigation, Kozak said the maintenance team at Lakeview built a comfortable Plexiglas booth and placed it on the covered patio. It enabled residents to be able to visit with their loved ones outside but behind a physical barrier to keep them safe. Perhaps most importantly, it allowed the residents, many of whom have cognitive or memory deficits, and their family members to communicate without masks.
“The communication booth enabled family members to take down their masks and show their facial expressions,” said Kozak. “Our residents could see their family members smile and blow kisses. We had one resident who pressed her hand to the glass to reach out to her new great-grandson. It was a special moment; I think we all cried, at one point.”
Jack turned 92 in early June, which coincided with the first day of the patio visits at Lakeview. The Pine Run team worked with the family throughout the whole day so that Jack could visit his entire family – in addition to his six children, he has 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. The family arranged for visits spaced through the day, each participating in Jack’s birthday celebration from morning coffee to afternoon snacks and birthday cake.
“Dad was on Cloud Nine when I spoke to him that night, recounting all of the people who had visited him and the interactions throughout the day,” said Michael Loughran. “The team at Lakeview was so generous and supportive in helping to connect our family during what could have been a very difficult time. We couldn’t be happier with his transition to life at Lakeview. It’s not the building, it’s the people; it’s the care and concern they have for all of the residents. As Dad’s health needs change, we are comfortable knowing that he has access to the entire continuum of care that Pine Run offers.”