Safe, connected and loved
By Deb Silverthorn
Residents of The Legacy Willow Bend’s Plano campus are thriving, healthy and safe, according to officials of the 12-year-old facility.
“We’ve always had incredible infection control in-place,” said Melissa Orth, president and CEO. She said the community adheres to guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Texas Health and Human Services.
“There’s news every day, we’re doing all to minimize the risk, and we are prepared with PPE (personal protective equipment), testing and empty units in which a resident could be quarantined,” she said.
Early on in the coronavirus pandemic, one staff member tested positive, and last week, one Healthcare Center (HCC) resident tested positive while hospitalized for another condition. In both cases, contact testing was done for all HCC residents and staff. All cleared in the initial case. In the most recent case, all results that were in by press time posted negative. Additionally, residents and staff of the HCC were were tested and all declared free of the virus in early June per mandate by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
Residents’ temperatures, pulse and oxygen levels are checked twice daily and masks must be worn in public. Those attending medical appointments follow a protocol and anyone hospitalized is quarantined for 14 days upon return.
On the staff side, employees’ temperatures are tested twice each shift and employees are required to commit to working only for Legacy Willow Bend. With many of its staff part-time, and ineligible for medical benefits, telehealth services are provided when necessary.
“Not all heroes wear capes,” said Legacy Willow Bend Executive Director Laura Levy. “Our heroes wear scrubs, chef’s coats, vests, housekeeping and maintenance uniforms and business attire.”
The facility’s 250 residents have been, for the most part, staying within their 115 independent living apartments, 40 assisted living and 18 memory care units. The 60-bed HCC rehab and therapy facility has about half the beds filled. Temperature checks and plexiglass safeguards are planned to allow visitors in limited numbers once guidelines are relaxed. Currently, visitors are allowed only for patients who are nearing the end of their life.
Meeting the challenges
Community professionals have provided experiences during the pandemic to help residents and their families connect to each other and to Judaism.
Rabbi Michael Cohen, director of rabbinical services and programs for the Legacy Senior Communities, has recorded Shabbat and other services, including a Passover Seder, which air on The Legacy’s closed-circuit television channel.
“Prudent leadership has kept us clear but it’s difficult to be cut off from friends, family and even one’s closest neighbors,” Rabbi Cohen said. “I’ve FaceTimed with some residents, calling others, even singing ‘Amazing Grace’ and more to one resident. For everyone, time together lost is the hardest part.”
Staff also organized a Mother’s Day drive-by parade of loved ones. Other programs include live music presentations traveling throughout the facility, online games and crafts and socially distanced Thursday happy hours. On-site dining at Gatsby’s Lounge, Stanley’s Café and the Tamarisk remain closed with pickup or delivery available. Families and friends make deliveries to the facility’s entrance and staffers are delivering outside orders to residents.
Soon, the salon is expected to reopen, as is the fitness center, allowing workouts of two at a time, small group exercise classes and bocce court access.
Bob Weinfeld, informally known as “the mayor of The Legacy” for his role in starting many programs on his home campus in Plano, is a hard man to keep down. He and Jean, his wife of 64 years, are staying safe while figuring out appropriate ways to stay connected. His “Getting to Know Your Neighbor…” series of conversations with residents is now aired on closed-circuit television.
“We’re making it and everyone is doing all they can to keep us safe,” said Weinfeld. He also still socializes, with a mask and at a distance, with his friends in an informal group called Legacy’s Intrepid Men’s Group.
Neil Beckerman misses seeing his mother, Greta Beckerman, but is grateful she’s being well cared for. The Beckerman family stays in touch with one another daily through the use of video devices. At first when The Legacy announced their visitation policy, Beckerman was surprised, at that point, the Mavs were still playing he explained.
“Thankfully, The Legacy has taken a safety first approach from the beginning. The staff has also promptly kept the residents and families abreast of all policy changes and COVID-19 testing,” he said.
Off campus: adjusting for the long term
Off campus, The Legacy at Home continues, still providing home health, personal care and hospice.
Rabbi Jeffrey Leynor, the Legacy at Home chaplain, at first provided tele-support to patients and families and now is able to provide on-site pastoral care. “Judaism is a ‘we’ religion and technology is hard for many on hospice,” he said. “It’s challenging but I’m now allowed to return in person. Walking people through darkness is a big part of what I do and that’s difficult in isolation.”
Construction and leasing continues at The Legacy Midtown Park. The North Dallas facility, located between Meadow Road and Royal Lane, near North Central Expressway, has 79 of its 184 independent living apartments leased. Another 51 assisted living apartments, 36 memory care suites and 54 skilled nursing beds are planned for opening this October. The independent living residents are expected to move in in February 2021.
In its 67 years of embracing Jewish values and upholding the highest standards of excellence, The Legacy Senior Communities is facing its biggest health challenge yet with the coronavirus.
“We’ve had to ask the above and beyond and I couldn’t be more inspired by our staff,” said Orth. “They can’t stay home and shelter, they’re under great stress, but they’re here serving with the greatest care and concern. It’s incredible to experience the dedication and to watch them come together.”
Hero Appreciation pay has been instituted for all clinical and front-line workers. The Legacy’s annual “Grateful Heart Campaign,” which provides annual employee bonuses, has been split into two payments, the first made last week.
“Our team, each person with a role to play, has been on top of this from day one and we couldn’t for ask more,” said Jerry Rasansky, chair of The Legacy Senior Communities board of trustees. “Many of our residents are the builders and leadership of our community and it is our responsibility to give back, to care for them with our all.”