The glass windows at Fulton Presbyterian Manor might keep viruses out, but the joy passing through them is contagious.
It's a lonely time for the elderly and medically fragile residents of local nursing homes. Many nursing and assisted living facilities have had to close to outside visitors to protect residents from COVID-19, a disease that's proven particularly dangerous to the elderly. On Wednesday, several local families brought some company to residents at Fulton Presbyterian Manor by doodling on the windows.
"My mom's a resident here," explained Linda Baysinger, who organized the event. "I'm going to be this age one day, and I know I'd want someone to visit me."
Presbyterian Manor has been closed to visitors since March 17 — a necessary safety measure with such a serious disease but hard on the residents, director of nursing Raymond Pfaff explained. Residents are also eating meals in their rooms, rather than together in the dining area, Baysinger said.
"Our biggest concern is meeting their psychosocial needs," Pfaff said. "In these kinds of situations, depression is going to go up if we don't intervene."
He said staff are spending extra one-on-one time with residents, "trying to keep them pepped up." The facility also recently received several tablets from Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America, which they'll use to facilitate video chats between residents and their family and friends.
Baysinger wanted to do more.
"I was thinking outside the box," she said.
She assembled a collection of window-friendly markers and made a list of games that are easy to play, even without the help of verbal communication: tic-tac-toe, Hangman, Scattergories. Then she recruited help.
"I put a post about it on social media for my friends, and then they shared it with other friends," Baysinger said. "Social media is wonderful for things like that."
A gaggle of families (many of them former Fulton Public Schools coworkers of Baysingers', plus their children) gathered outside Presbyterian Manor on Wednesday morning, carefully maintaining their distance from each other but sending grins and air-hugs back and forth. Presbyterian Manor staff helped coordinate things on the inside — passing out markers and positioning residents at windows around the facility.
Safely behind glass, the residents greeted their visitors with giant smiles and enthusiastic waves. Outside the building, the participants were just as eager to start decorating.
Kindergartener Molly Yates got to work drawing a series of pictures depicting the adventures of a family of puppies.
"One puppy woke up, ate breakfast" she narrated.
Her mother, Heather Yates, said the social isolation is already wearing on her children, so she was eager to give them a chance to interact with others.
"This is a hard time for the kids," she said.
Colin McDaniel, playing tic-tac-toe with a Manor resident, said he's actually missing school.
"(Being stuck at home) isn't the funnest experience in the world, mostly because I don't get to see my friends," he said. "I'm used to going to school."
He said participating in Wednesday's cheer-bringing mission was fun, though.
"She's won some games — it's like half-and-half," he admitted.
Baysinger said she hopes to bring the activity to other area nursing facilities and assisted living communities.