Year in the Bubble: Fairwinds Retirement looks back at the last year as more restrictions relax

SPOKANE, Wash. – There were big steps this week on the path forward for long-term care facilities and nursing homes. This year has been a tough and isolating time for people living in those facilities.

Fifty-eight percent of people who died from COVID in Washington were those living in long-term care facilities. Those who weren’t sick were restricted from seeing family, making things even more lonely.

But now, things are looking up.

Human connection is important, and that was restricted during the pandemic.

The one thing many people miss: A hug.

Cathy Lenz used to give her dad a hug every time she visited him at Fairwinds Spokane.

It’s been a year since she’s been able to do that.

“I miss that because I enjoy a hug quite a bit,” said George, Lenz’s father. “Not only family, but even some of the residents.”

It’s been a tough year in the bubble for these facilities, since they had to be especially careful. Right in the beginning, people couldn’t visit. So, they got creative.

“I came daily and would park outside his window and we would talk on the telephone to each other, but we were able to visually see each other, so I thought that was real important,” Lenz said.

Cornelius couldn’t leave his apartment home for a while, too. The virus was unpredictable and still mostly unknown, so they had to take any precaution they could.

“He was a little tired of that,” Lenz said of her father being confined to his apartment. “I told him, he had been in World War II on a ship, and confined on the ship in the Pacific. I said, You survived World War II on a ship, and you’ll be able to survive this pandemic.'”

While the last year has been tough for a lot of people, including people who lived at Fairwinds, the retirement community tried to do whatever it could to keep spirits high.

“A party? Yeah, oh, a couple of them,” Cornelius said.

Most recently, Fairwinds held a “Taco ’bout a year” celebration. They took a look back at all they’ve endured in the last 12 months. Not only that, staff have made fun videos to encourage people to get vaccinated, as well as did a lip sync of a song, telling their residents they miss them.

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“I think it’s just really important to commend our residents and our staff about how great they’ve been this year. We’ve had some of the most fun events we’ve ever had in our community,” said Jamie Bravato, the general manager of Fairwinds.

While some facilities went through COVID outbreaks, Fairwinds did not. In the last year, Bravato said four residents and 11 staff members tested positive. The cases were spread throughout the year and didn’t happen at one time, Bravato said. In total, they have 160 residents and 75 employees.

Things are only looking up. Governor Jay Inslee just relaxed visiting restrictions on Thursday, allowing more indoor visitations. Outdoor visits are still encouraged over indoor visits. Before Thursday, indoor visits were allowed if it was only in open, big areas and not their individual units.

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With more loosened restrictions, more people will be able to see their loved ones. Ninety-seven percent of residents and 80 percent of the staff have been vaccinated at Fairwinds.

“We’re really excited about the future,” Bravato said.

Soon, Lenz will be able to get her vaccine, meaning she’ll be able to hug her dad again.

“I’m looking forward to it so much,” she said.