Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and for the staff and residents of UCC-related Fairhaven Senior Services in Whitewater, Wis., life during the pandemic fits the bill.
During the week of May 18, Fairhaven provided COVID-19 testing for all of its 420 residents and staff members. This included Fairhaven’s Prairie Village 55+ community as well as its independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing communities. On May 27, Paul Kuenning, Fairhaven’s president and CEO, announced that all of the tests had come back negative for the virus. For Kuenning, the results are thanks to the extra effort of staff, residents and their families to keep everyone safe. He credits staff members being extra attentive to safety procedures — even when not at work — as one of the main reasons for the positive results.
“Our staff has done an outstanding job protecting themselves for the benefit of our residents,” Kuenning says. “They have gone out of their way to take precautionary measures at home. Each week, we try to do something special for our staff members — a meal, ice cream, cookies, soda — just to show our appreciation. It’s a small gesture, but I believe it goes a long way.”
Kuenning has high praise for the residents and their families, too. “Our resident and families have continued to be a great support,” he says, including Fairhaven’s Residents Council starting a “Keep Us Safe” fund that, as of May 31, has already collected $12,180. Funds will be used to support staff and provide needed protective equipment, including masks, washable protective gowns, shields, surgical masks, and movable carts, Kuenning says.
The Residents Council was formed in the late 1980s and works with residents, staff and administration to further Fairhaven’s goal of “adding life to years,” says Kathy Ross, Council chair, and a resident of Fairhaven’s Prairie Village. “When we recognized that the pandemic was impacting our community, several residents asked what they could do to help. Those conversations resulted in the Council sponsoring the ‘Keep Us Safe’ donation opportunity.”
The Council sent a letter to all residents and families, as appropriate, in late March that detailed the purpose of the fund: to underwrite the unprecedented expense of protective items used by direct care staff at Fairhaven during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The residents’ response to the fund has been stellar,” says Ross. “It’s no surprise that ‘Keep Us Safe’ has been well received, given the traditional generosity of Fairhaven residents and families. Since this is an ongoing donation opportunity, we believe the sky is the limit as the Fairhaven community continues to be kept safe by daily care and decisions made for our best health.”
The current “normal” at Fairhaven includes daily evaluation of directives issued by the CDC and Wisconsin Public Health. Any changes are communicated to residents through Fairhaven’s in-house TV channel and via a written updates sent to families and posted on the website. Staff and residents are monitored each shift, masks are required, each area is kept distinctly separated, and visitors are prohibited, except for medical and mental health needs.
Kuenning says that, thanks to everyone working together, Fairhaven is ready — no matter what the future holds. “Each day now, as businesses are opening, it will get more challenging to keep the virus at bay,” he says, “but I believe we are prepared for the eventuality, and will treat it and manage it as carefully as we have other difficult things in the past.”