In order to help fight the loneliness and isolation that nursing home residents may be feeling during the COVID-19 pandemic, an Elgin community member led an effort to send dozens of cards of encouragement to a local nursing facility.
It all began when Bailey Braden saw a post from a family member on Facebook about a different nursing home asking for cards for the residents. Elgin Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, like most nursing facilities, is closed to visitors in order to protect residents from potential exposure to COVID-19.
“My first thought went to the elderly in our community,” Braden said. “For people who are in these kinds of residences or facilities, having visitors is really important to them.”
Braden shared her idea with other Elgin community members through Facebook groups to see who would want to participate, and she reached out to Elgin Nursing and Rehabilitation Center to see what she could do.
“When I posted that online, I got great feedback from the community as far as wanting to help out,” she said.
People made their own cards, decorating them and adding words of encouragement for the residents. Braden then picked up all of the cards, disinfected them, stored them in an envelope and delivered them to Elgin Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on March 25. Then, the facility held on to the cards for another 24 hours before passing them out to residents, just as an extra precaution.
“I looked up everything from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommendations as far as letters and tried to take as many extra possible steps as I could so there wouldn’t be an issue as far as spreading anything on the cards,” Braden said.
Braden also reached out to Down Home Ranch, a community and nonprofit organization located near Elgin that provides homes, training and job opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, to help out. According to Down Home Ranch development associate Kelly Clarke, those at Down Home Ranch had already been thinking about ways they could help Elgin Nursing and Rehabilitation Center when Braden contacted them.
“I thought about the nursing home and everything that was going on with the closure there, and brought it up to the ranchers and asked if that was something that they would want to do,” Clarke said. “They all wanted to handwrite notes or make handmade cards for them. It was kind of an idea before Bailey brought it up to us, and then she asked about the cards and it all just fell into place.”
Before Elgin Nursing and Rehabilitation Center was closed to visitors, ranchers from Down Home Ranch had been volunteering there for over two years by playing bingo and socializing with the residents, according to Clarke.
“It was based around those friendships that they had already made with those people there, just wanting to send well wishes and let them know, ‘Hey, we still care about you, we miss you guys, we’re sad we can’t be there to play bingo, hope all is well,’” she said. “They were really excited, the energy in the room was really lively, as it always is with our group.”
Terry, a rancher at Down Home Ranch, said they wanted the residents at Elgin Nursing and Rehabilitation Center to know that they are missed and loved.
“I hope the cards help the residents remember that they’re loved and not forgotten,” Terry said.
The ranchers from Down Home Ranch made a total of 60 cards for Elgin Nursing and Rehabilitation Center residents. They also donated 50 blank greeting cards to Braden for others to use for the project.
Braden said that the management at Elgin Nursing and Rehabilitation Center was very grateful for the cards and happy that someone was thinking of them. She also said she wants to potentially deliver another package of cards to Elgin Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in the future.
From her personal experiences with loved ones in nursing facilities, Braden knows how important it is for the people in these facilities to have visitors.
“It’s hard to be in that kind of situation,” she said. “I just feel for them, and I was like, if they can’t have that physical contact, or even have your family member come into the building, wanting to know that they’re not alone.”