Bridge at Cherry Hill keeps residents, community safe

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Senior citizens have been at particular risk during the ongoing pandemic They may have compromised immune systems or be susceptible to the elements, outdoors or coming into contact with people who might be infected with the COVID-19 virus. Extra protection is needed in these areas to reduce the number of cases from increasing.

At The Bridge at Cherry Hill, located at 1 Cherry Hill Road in Johnston, they ensured their residents and staff stayed healthy and free of the coronavirus.

“On March 13, we immediately went to ‘Level 3,’ which was not allowing any visitation in the community,” said Maryann Grace, executive director at The Bridge. “Residents were confined to their apartments and having their meals delivered to them. We also cancelled all activities. Our goal was to keep our residents safe and healthy.”

Grace said The Bridge followed and continues to follow the CDC guidelines. That process included disinfecting the entire building immediately, including doorknobs, elevator pads, etc., during every shift. They scheduled times for families to drop items off, which were wiped down with disinfectant and held for 24 hours before being delivered to their apartments. This also went for their mail, she said.

Grace said the work done by the staff yielded the desired results.

“The staff helped out tremendously,” she said. “They followed the rules. Our employees came to work and went home. Because of this, we are COVID-19 free.”

Grace noted staff members had their temperatures taken before and after each shift, they are required to wear face masks and hand-washing seminars were held.

She added the fortunes of having supportive families during this period.

“We recently started communal dining for lunch and dinner with staggered dining times,” Grace said. “Measures have been taken to keep social distancing and limiting the number of residents in the dining room. Temps are taken and hand sanitizer is available at the entrance of the dining room. We have also initiated visitation on a limited basis.”

According to sales manager Jen Burns, The Bridge has kept morale up for both the staff and residents by holding a staff appreciation day. The local police and fire departments, in conjunction with some of area local businesses, held a “parade” through their parking lot and local businesses decorated their cars.

The pandemic led to other challenges as well.

“Due to the virus, we were no longer allowing the hairdressers into the building. So, I stepped in and took on the task,” Burns said. “Most of my female residents had been getting their hair done weekly over the past 50-plus years. It was something for them to look forward to.”

The Bridge at Cherry Hill typically hosts the governor’s Centenarian Breakfast every year. Unfortunately, it had to be cancelled this year due to ongoing events. Burns said they were additionally excited to host this year because it was the first time they had six of their own centenarians. Instead, The Bridge decided to have a special lunch just for them to celebrate their milestone birthdays.

They also had three staff members that were high school graduating seniors. They had a “senior” parade for them, and the residents were asked what their advice would be to these girls. The held up signs with their advice as the graduates “marched” into the dining room. The residents also decorated the graduates “caps” and were presented them with The Bridge at Cherry Hill diplomas.

Keeping busy

To combat isolation and to keep our residents occupied and engaged as much as possible, Burns said new activity director Heather Northrup would make frequent visits to residents apartments in addition to making “activity packets” for them.

“Through this pandemic we have tried to maintain our high level of excellence and hospitality. It is a team effort,” Burns said.

Studies have shown that “senior living” communities such as The Bridge are among the safest places to be for the aging population. In addition to providing 24/7 medical staff, living in communities such as The Bridge can help combat the isolation and depression that many seniors are experiencing living at home alone. It can also help alleviate the stress and anxiety of their family members. The Bridge is a full service, all-inclusive assisted living community.

The Bridge at Cherry Hill is accepting new residents, but they changed how they showcase themselves. In order to reduce any possible exposure, on-site tours of the building are kept to a very bare minimum. Instead, the creation of a “virtual tour” that can be sent to anyone that inquires about living here.

“We try to do as much ‘virtually’ with maintaining our personal touch and relationship building,” Burns noted.

They need to meet and follow certain protocols, such as: new incoming residents need to have two negative COVID-19 tests before admission. Once they move in, they do have to stay in their apartment for 14 days but staff members ensure residents have plenty of interaction with the staff.

“The transition to assisted living can be difficult in normal circumstances so we do our best to make it as easy as possible for all involved,” said Burns.

For more information about The Bridge at Cherry Hill, please contact Jen Burns at 401-233-2880, ext. 11, or email her at jjburns@centurypa.com.

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