For over two months now, nursing homes in Missouri have strictly limited visitors to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 respiratory illness among their residents.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older people as a group are considered most at-risk. This, coupled with the fact that many nursing home residents have other health problems or weakened immune systems, creates a potentially dangerous situation.
The lack of visitors from outside has left many nursing home residents feeling depressed, according to Chaplain Bruce Underhill with Hospice Compassus.
“They’ll talk with loved ones on the phone or through FaceTime, but it’s just not the same and you can tell it’s having an effect on them,” Underhill said.
For the past six weeks, in lieu of the weekly services he has held for staff and residents, Underhill has been holding prayer walks for NHC Healthcare and Brooke Haven Healthcare every Friday.
“For some residents, these prayer walks are the only outside interaction they get,” Underhill said. “Some of them have nobody.”
During the prayer walks, Underhill strolls around the facility grounds, stopping to pray at windows with any resident or staff member who wants someone to pray with. Residents and staff who want a prayer stop will place ribbons on the windows or doors where they want the visit to be held: pink ribbons at Brooke Haven and yellow ribbons at NHC.
Underhill says that, rain or shine, he will be out to visit the nursing home residents every Friday afternoon until the ban on public visitation is lifted.
“I hope people take a step back and gain some perspective,” Underhill said. “It’s easy to get caught up in the our own lives and forget about these residents, but they’re people, too, and they’re having a really hard time.”
He encourages everyone to reach out to nursing home volunteers and event coordinators to see what they can do to help the residents.
“It’s important to remember that all the residents have different interests, so it’s best to volunteer and help do what they want to do, not necessarily what you want to do,” he explained. “But all in all, every little bit of encouragement helps.”
In addition to the prayer walks, Hospice Compassus is also collecting cards, letters and children’s drawings to give to nursing home residents, starting this Friday.
“They really love it when they get them,” Underhill said.
Letters and cards can be mailed Hospice Compassus at 707 Kentucky Ave., Suite 2, West Plains, MO 65775, or they can be dropped off in person at Hospice Compassus.
The West Plains Daily Quill is an alternate collection site, and cards can be mailed to the Quill, P.O. Box 110, West Plains, MO 65775, or brought to the office, 205 Washington Ave.
Correspondence should be marked, ATTN: Chaplain Bruce Underhill.
For more information about the prayer walks call the Hospice Compassus office, 256-4127.