Every day the team at the Spectrum Health Rehab and Nursing Center works to keep their patients’ outlooks bright.

This has especially been the case during the pandemic, when visitors and group activities have been restricted at care facilities across the state.

Physical therapist Elizabeth Haarsma shared a glimpse of life behind the windows of the Kalamazoo Avenue SE facility.

“Residents and patients have been holding up,” she said. “Some are very sad, but they’ve been appreciative of those of us inside the building. We are being extra intentional about visiting patients in their rooms, smiling lots with our eyes (since they can’t see under these masks), connecting patients and their families with virtual visits as much as possible.”

They are also sending messages loud and clear to friends and family, recently holding up whiteboards of what they’d like others to know most.

John Naum, 85, held up a sign that read: “I can’t wait to see you and give you a hug!”

His sign was a message to his wife. They have been married for 65 years.

“John’s wife always says on their video calls, ‘I love you more today than I did on our wedding day, honey,’” Haarsma said.

Physical therapist Chelsea Dingaman held a sign meant to inspire a chuckle: “Help! We’re running out of chocolate!”

“These are hard and unusual times, so lots of listening to each other, making each other laugh, being there when people need to cry,” Haarsma said.

Other messages shared inspiration and a whole lot of love.

Therapists are working on new individualized interventions for each patient. Haarsma said they are doing quality visits in rooms and bringing fun activities to the hallways.

“Patients’ families are a huge part of our care team, so we are acting as the connector between patients and their families so that families still feel involved, empowered and included,” Haarsma said.

The residents and staff messages serve as positive reminders that we are still in this together.

“Those of us that are caring for patients inside thank those of you on the outside for doing your part to stay safe,” Haarsma said. “We keep reminding ourselves that though we are adjusting to this new abnormal, it is only temporary and soon enough we will adjust again.”

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