Elinor Trotsky, a resident at the Jewish Senior Life apartments in West Bloomfield Township, gets a temperature check by Maintenance Supervisor Rick Napper upon returning to the facility for the day.

Elinor Trotsky, a resident at the Jewish Senior Life apartments in West Bloomfield Township, gets a temperature check by Maintenance Supervisor Rick Napper upon returning to the facility for the day.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Safety and socializing key to battle COVID-19 in nursing homes

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published June 19, 2020

 Jewish Senior Life resident Gertie Ehrlichman chooses a word-seek book from the activity cart.

Jewish Senior Life resident Gertie Ehrlichman chooses a word-seek book from the activity cart.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 The residences at the Jewish Senior Life facility in West Bloomfield Township are open again to new tenant applications.

The residences at the Jewish Senior Life facility in West Bloomfield Township are open again to new tenant applications.

Photo by Deb Jacques

METRO DETROIT — Quarantine has been tough on the youngest people in our families, as play dates and schoolwork have been dramatically changed to decelerate the spread of COVID-19.

It’s been even tougher on our older people. Residents in senior living facilities have been especially vulnerable to contracting the virus, and to boot, the once-thriving social communities have struggled to keep friends and peers connected while properly socially distancing.

But they’ve got it pretty well figured out over at the Jewish Senior Life residences in West Bloomfield, according to JSL Director of Residential Marketing and Community Relations Tracey Proghovnick Edelstein.

“We currently serve all of our meals to our residents in their apartments, and we either check in with independent living residents by phone, or for our assisted living residents we’re interfacing because of the care component,” she explained. “We’ve been extremely cautious, but also kept socialization and mental health at the highest level we can.”

That has meant bringing puzzles, books and games right to each room, and planning to stagger service in the dining room to promote social distancing. Even more, some of the more exciting events going on haven’t been scratched from the schedule amid the shutdown.

“We play bingo over our speaker system so residents can play in their apartments,” Proghovnick Edelstein said. “We have entertainment outside and move (performers) to each side of the buildings so that everyone can see them and hear the music.”

While the programming minds at senior living facilities are working hard to keep residents busy, first and foremost the concern of staff is keeping residents and personnel safe from COVID-19.

After all, of the tens of thousands of cases recorded in the state of Michigan, 12% of them came from nursing homes, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. They also account for more than a third of the virus deaths.

Riverview Health, which has several locations around metro Detroit, has tried to balance mental health initiatives with physical protection from the virus.

“At Riverview Grosse Pointe, we have adapted our programming and socialization opportunities in all areas to adhere to these requirements, which we feel is in the best interest of our residents and staff for their health and safety,” Richard Levin, the CEO of Riverview Health, said in an email. “We will continue to take these measures for as long as needed and are considering the continuation of some of the practices which have been implemented even after the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic have ended.”

The DHHS announced last week that it’s tightening up requirements for testing and data reporting from nursing homes, along with personal protective equipment and staffing shortages. Now that cases of COVID-19 are seemingly slowing, the goal is to keep a close eye on virus hot spots and, hopefully, keep new outbreaks contained.

“As we continue working to protect Michigan families from the spread of COVID-19 and lower the chance of a second wave, we must do everything we can to protect our most vulnerable Michiganders and those frontline workers who care for them,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a press release. “Continuous testing and proper staffing are crucial to that effort. As we continue to safely reopen sectors of our economy, (MDHHS Director Robert Gordon) and I will keep working with our partners in health care to ensure protections for our most vulnerable populations and for the brave men and women on the front lines fighting this virus.”

The ramped up safety policies have been hard on seniors residing in nursing homes, for sure. But Proghovnick Edelstein said they’re doing better than their younger counterparts.

“They’ve been amazingly compliant with everything we’ve asked them to do. But, you know, a lot of our residents lived through the Great Depression and World War II. Quite frankly, this is just another challenge they need to get through. We’re all learning from them. A lot of the younger people on our staff are saying, ‘If they can handle this, we can too.’”