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EAMC-Lanier holds family parade for residents

VALLEY — A special event Thursday during National Nursing Home Week brought a special kind of happiness that had not been experienced in weeks by EAMC-Lanier Nursing Home residents and their families. From 10 a.m. until noon, a family parade took place just outside the nursing home. There were four separate parades with family members driving cars decorated with streamers and balloons and with the name of their loved one on a sign on the door. More than 30 residents were able to see it from the courtyard area just outside the home.

“It was the most uplifting thing we have had here in a long time,” said Administrator Alison Yarbrough. “There wasn’t a dry eye among the residents, their families and the staff. It was the first time they’d seen their loved ones in a long time.”

One resident with dementia especially liked the parade.

“His family drove a hot rod he’d restored,” Yarbrough said. “They revved up the engine when they passed by, and he instantly knew it was his car. It made him so happy.”

Eve Milner, EAMC-Lanier’s vice president of clinical services, led off each segment of the parade in a golf cart. She rang a cowbell along the way.

“It was the happiest day we have had here in a long time both for the residents, their families and the staff,” Yarbrough said. “But it hasn’t been gloom and doom. Our activities staff has done a good job in keeping everyone’s spirits up. They are very good at thinking outside the box to keep the residents happy while keeping them safe.”

Some more thinking outside the box has allowed nursing home residents to keep in touch with their families.

“We have an iPad for video calls,” Yarbrough explains. “At least half of our residents have been able to have video calls with family members through this. Some of our members have been able to talk to family members up to 30 minutes at a time. It’s not an easy process. You have to have secure apps on both ends.”

The family parade was the highlight event of Nursing Home Week. There has been a fun event every day of the week. Monday was ice cream truck day. A cart decorated like an ice cream truck was pushed down the hallways, stopping at each door. Each resident was served ice cream as the cart played ice cream truck-style jingles. Tuesday was bingo bonanza. Each resident could win prizes while playing bingo just outside their doorway. Wednesday was traveling carnival day. A decorated cart playing carnival-style music went past each door with each resident receiving gifts. The highlight of the week was family parade day on Thursday and the week concluded with a fun Hawaiian-style luau with everyone wearing leis.

“The activities staff is great,” Yarbrough said. “They stop in the doorways and dance to the music. The residents look forward to seeing them, and the staff has fun, too. We are a lot like the parents of babies who make fools of themselves trying to entertain them. We do that for our residents.”

Yarbrough said that she and her staff take their jobs very seriously. “What we do is an honor,” she said. “Families are entrusting us to the care of their loved one. That’s a major responsibility to live up to, especially during these trying times.”

“Our residents have been awesome through this,” said Beth Brown of the activities staff. “Their families have been too. It was so sweet of them to take part in the parade.”

“I am proud of our staff,” Yarbrough said. “They have stepped up and embraced the challenge we have had to deal with. We have some very good people here.”

The EAMC-Lanier Nursing Home currently has 86 residents. Its capacity is 103.

“Admissions have slowed down during the coronavirus crisis,” Yarbrough said. “We hope to get them back up soon.”