By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
COVID-19 hasn’t been able to bring down residents and staff at Yukon’s premier senior living community.
No positive cases have been reported and spirits are up at Spanish Cove, a continuing care retirement community for people age 62 years and above. There are about 290 residents in independent living, assisted living and nursing care.
While the Spanish Cove campus at 11 Palm has practically been on lockdown during the health crisis, its people have been able to thrive while adjusting to their “new normal.”
“We have been able to start back with a few group activities as long as they’re six feet apart and wearing masks,” said Cheryl O’Neill, Spanish Cove’s chief operating officer and nursing home administrator. “We’re also offering daily food treats that they can take in their apartments.”
While nursing home and assisting living residents still haven’t been able to have direct physical contact with family members, they do take advantage of window visits, Facetime virtual visits and phone calls.
“We have some people who want to talk to their loved ones every day, and we try to make that happen,” O’Neill related. “They’re used to coming and visiting them every day here. It’s a little different than other nursing homes because the families are around and want to visit. That’s been the hardest thing.
“The residents seem to be coping better than families.”
Group activities are limited to 10 people and attendees must remain at least 6 feet apart and keep their masks on.
“We do have exercise in the morning,” O’Neill reported. “But mainly what the residents love are bingo and movies. We’ve done race cars down the hallway and an ice cream truck comes through once a week so every resident can have a treat. They love that.
“We even had a parade outside, and family members got to drive through and see them then.”
A covered patio is available for outside group activities – if it’s not too hot.
Spanish Cove is the most experienced senior retirement community in the Oklahoma City metro area, operating since 1974.
For several months, assisted living and long-term residents couldn’t leave their rooms. Just recently, they’ve been able to eat in the dining room and socialize with their Spanish Cove friends again.
“That has really boosted morale,” O’Neill said. “To be able to go out and be with a few of their friends – at a distance – has changed their whole attitude. They’re a lot happier.”
These Cove residents won’t be able to go outside to visit loved ones until phase three of Oklahoma’s COVID-19 reopening process for health care facilities.
“Right now, we’re in phase one,” O’Neill said.
Spanish Cove has met one requirement to advance from phase one – having 0 residents or employees with the virus.
What’s keeping the Cove from progressing to the next phase is the recent increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases across Canadian County.
“Until we see 14 days of a decline, we cannot step out of phase one,” O’Neill said. “It’s not one day out of 14. It’s 14 days it has to stay on a downward trend before we can ever go to phase two.”
Independent living residents can leave the Cove campus for essential trips. They must have their temperatures checked and logged once returning.
Spanish Cove employees are credited with following established protocols – in place from the start – that keep the virus from spreading.
“I can’t rave enough about our staff,” O’Neill said. “We really have a great staff at Spanish Cove that love the residents and love what they do. All of us employees are trying to make sure that we quarantine and are not putting them at risk.
“We’ve all led a ‘sheltered life’ lately.”
All Cove employees and the assisted living and nursing home residents have their temperatures checked regularly.
Family members of these residents are notified if three employees are suspected of having been exposed to the novel coronavirus.
“They are so appreciative of the care that they’re loved ones are getting and know they’re being taken care of,” O’Neill said. “They’re glad we’re erring on the side of safety because they know how deadly it can be.
“In the beginning, it was a lot harder than it is now.”