WLAA Exclusive: Ann Arbor’s Memory Lane making sure residents, employees are safe during pandemic

The coronavirus has taken lives, changed lives and changed life as we know it – at least for now, and the foreseeable future. While it doesn’t ask for ID, seniors and those with pre-existing health conditions are among those in the high-risk category for the COVID-19 killer.

Nursing homes and senior-care facilities have been pushed to the limit trying to keep their residents and employees safe. Dealing with the unknown is never easy, but despite the incredible challenges, most have been doing amazing work at protecting those who need increased protection and safety.

Joanna LaFleur, founder/CEO of Memory Lane Assisted Living on Carpenter Road, and her staff are doing phenomenal work keeping their residents engaged and occupied while keeping them safe from the pandemic.

“During this time of the coronavirus we are working hard to make sure our residents remain connected, active and safe,” says LaFleur. “Our staff is amazing. We truly have some of the kindest, patient, loving, and dedicated staff of any place you would go. They are the reason why Memory Lane is as special as it is.”

Memory Lane includes two houses dedicated to caring for those who are diagnosed with Dementia. Their caregivers are professionally trained to work with residents living with various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s.

Residents get around the clock assistance while also enjoying all the things they’d typically do at home.

When COVID-19 began to emerge as we know it today, LaFleur didn’t hesitate in putting a plan together to keep both residents and staff out of harm’s way.

“When things started ramping up with coronavirus the first thing that I did was call my staff individually,” says LaFleur. “Our staff are the heart of our company, we are only as good as our worst staff member. When I reached out to my staff I first asked if they were okay and how they were handling all the changes in their lives. I asked if they needed anything.”

Some of her employees needed food, some needed resources to get new insurance, some needed a place to do laundry, some just needed to talk and know someone cared. And their boss clearly cared.

“I made to sure let them know how much we care and that we were here for them through this difficult time,” she said. “I gave resources for self-care and we started doing more little things daily to keep our spirits up and show our staff that we value them.”

LaFleur then focused on the huge responsibility of taking care of their residents and keeping them safe. She talked about how what they do will have a direct effect on the health and well-being of their residents.

“I know they love the residents as much as I do and we all want to keep them safe,” LaFleur said.

“I also told (my employees) that we would be having more instances to fill shifts if people got sick, or had someone sick in their lives and asked them to commit to working at least one extra shift per week. I did this to create unity and vision within our team.”

LaFleur also talked with family members of all their residents. “I let them know the steps we were taking, the guidelines coming from the CDC and governor and that they would no longer be able to visit the home until they lifted the visitor restriction,” she said. “Then we increased our sanitizing to include deep cleaning more on midnights and sanitizing everything throughout the day. We cancelled all outings (we take residents out weekly) and began checking caregivers and residents temperatures every day.”

They also began securing PPE, made it mandatory that caregivers wear masks consistently on the floor and provided special soap at each sink with disposable towels. They created a plan for when/if one of the residents began showing symptoms and educated everyone on the proper procedures.

“Aside from their physical health we are also working hard to improve our resident’s mental health,” LaFleur said. “A lot of residents are used to seeing their families daily or weekly and this is a challenge for both families and residents. We got IPads for both of our homes and have set up phone and video calls with families on a regular basis. We also had areas around the windows of our house cleared so families can have “window” visits and are encouraging families to do this as often as possible.”

While the world is spinning in a different direction, LaFleur and her staff are doing their best to provide a consistent, positive and active schedule for their residents. They are keeping the daily routines the same as much as possible and filling their days with “fun activities and a lot of love and connection from our caregivers.”

But it’s a challenge to say the least.

“We can tell that our residents are missing their families,” LaFleur says. “They are more emotional, crying more often, having changes in eating habits and we are seeing some increased confusion. We send families photos and videos almost every day of the residents doing activities to help them feel connected and know their loved one is still having fun. We are working hard to connect residents and families daily and give every opportunity possible – even scheduling weekly or daily calls/visits if they want.”

For more information on Memory Lane Assisted Living, click HERE