Bringing Families Together, Safely, During the Pandemic
by Sheryl Wilde
“They all have feelings. It doesn’t matter how interactive they can be. They have feelings. And you can tell when there is joy in them.” ~ Carol Zambrano, mother of Diane, Olive House resident
Diane was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was 2 years old. She’s 57 now and uses an electric wheelchair.
“Diane’s a little princess really,” says Carol. “She’s a very girly girl. She loves being dressed up in pretty clothes and loves wearing pretty earrings.
“I sometimes think the separation, due to the pandemic, was harder on me than on her. She understands, but she doesn’t really understand.
“We talked with Diane nearly every day via Facetime, but of course it wasn’t the same as being with her. She has difficulty speaking and is very hard to understand on the phone.”
Then, just as the pandemic was beginning, Diane began having serious problems with swallowing.
For many of us, the aroma and taste of a new morning’s first cup of coffee is one of life’s small moments of pleasure that we take for granted. “Diane loved coffee. It was one of her favorite things in the world. But it got to a point where she couldn’t even swallow liquids. She could no longer enjoy a cup of coffee. She had to have a gastric tube put in in January. It was so frustrating not to be able to be with her, but I did understand.”
Mountain Shadows understands that frustration – of not being able to be with loved ones. So, we have been working hard to create innovative and safe ways to bring our families together.
Says Angela Addington, Director of Development, MSF, “Mountain Shadows is now open to family visitations. With safety precautions in place of course! America Links International, Inc. built a custom plexiglass “visitation pod” which allows our residents and their families to see and communicate with one another while preventing the spread of germs. We have seen great results on both sides. Families who haven’t been able to visit since March are thrilled to be in the presence of their loved ones again and our residents are in great spirits after being able to spend time with their families.”
“Diane’s family was the first to visit using the visitation pod,” says Trisha Brodd, Olive House. “It’s a great system. We have the plexiglass shield, face coverings – it’s a safe way for families to see each other.
“Diane’s family brought her flowers. She was so excited to receive them! It made her feel so special. She was the center of attention.”
“When Diane saw us, she just lit up like a Christmas tree,” adds Carol. “Her sister, whom she hadn’t seen in almost a year, her cousin, her father and I were all there. We couldn’t touch, but we put our hands on the plexiglass. She was all smiles.”
Yes, there was joy in her – and joy all around.
Carol Haskin, mother of Mountain Shadows’ resident, Michael, adds, “This is another example of how everyone at Mountain Shadows goes out of their way to take care of everything. They are clever, caring, and they push the limits with everything!”
Carol arranged a visit with Michael at a very special time. “It was perfect timing! Michael’s birthday was on Sunday the 4th. We visited him on the 2nd. It was so great to see him!!! Randy, Michael’s dad, and I went. Usually there is not much response from Michael, but when he saw us, he was banging on the plexiglass. We all had fun. He was making noises. We brought him up to date on the family.
“We brought him birthday presents and we sang Happy Birthday, in person! It was perfect!”
Adds Maddie Haywood, Qualified Intellectual Disability Professional/Administrator, “All of the families are so excited and relieved that they can visit with their loved ones. Everyone has been asking ‘When can we visit?’ They’ve been asking every week. I’ve been getting constant calls. They really wanted to see each other.
“Brittany Barnson and her parents, Jeff and Kelly, recently had a wonderful visit. They were all ecstatic to see other! They told each other how much they loved and missed each other. They were so happy!
“But the best part was that Brittany’s sister came with her newborn. Brittany got to meet her new niece!!! She’s three months old now.
“Brittany is normally a little reserved, but when she saw her family, and the new baby, she squealed, she was so happy!
“Before this visit, Brittany told me how much she missed her family. She was struggling. She said she was praying to God a lot, asking to see them.
“After the visit, she said her angels were looking down on her and had answered her prayers.
“Now she knows her family is okay.”
Mountain Shadows Car Parade
Another way Mountain Shadows recently steered families together was with a car parade!
“The car parade gave Kara a sense of knowing that I’m here again. It was a great community effort. We were all doing this together for our families. We all had a common purpose together. It was a great feeling to know there was something we could do to let Kara know we care, and to let all of the Mountain Shadows’ residents know we are rooting for them.” ~ Pat Munson, Parent of Kara, Mountain Shadows Resident
We love a parade!
We love you! We miss you!
As we all self-isolate and practice safe social distancing during the pandemic, a new way to come together to celebrate special moments is racing across the country: the car parade.
In this spirit, the staff organized a nearly 40-car parade to get residents, staff and family members revved up with a moment of connection and joy.
“Everyone at Mountain Shadows has been struggling and trying to stay positive during this pandemic,” says Stacy Sullivan, Director of Operations, Mountain Shadows Support Group. “We’re used to lots of loud and rowdy celebrations. We’re used to a buzz around here and always seeing a lot of movement; we haven’t had any of that since the beginning of March. It’s been tough for the residents and staff. We’re always trying to figure out ways to keep the spirit of the campus going and energized.
“We have family forums on Zoom and the families were asking, ‘When can we visit?’ We needed to find a way to do that while keeping everyone safe.
“We came up with the idea of a car parade. It took a lot of organization, but we did it! We had about 40 cars total in the parade. Many of the families decorated their cars with signs and balloons. There was a lot of honking and cheering. There was a lot of excitement.
“We staged at the local Vons shopping center and went to the off-campus houses in the community first. It was fun. Some of the neighbors came out and started cheering and there were neighborhood kids on bikes following the cars. There was a real sense of community.
“On campus, all of the residents were outside waiting for the cars to arrive. The residents of each house remained together as a group, with social distancing. There were balloons and signs everywhere. There was music blaring. Everyone was cheering. It was incredible! It was so good to see all the smiles. The residents were so excited to see their families. They were jumping up and down.
“I saw tears in many people’s eyes. It was emotional for everyone. For me, it was unexpected to see the outpouring of emotion and the impact it made.”
The Mountain Shadows’ car parade steered families and community together to celebrate life. Here are just a few comments from our Mountain Shadows family: “The car parade was one of the best things we have ever done, even though it was so emotional. We loved seeing every face, both residents and staff, and felt like it was a special touch of humanity. Thank you for giving us an opportunity to share such a sweet, encouraging moment, face-to-face (or mask-to-mask) in the midst of the pandemic.” Paula and Jim Tremayne, Parents of Reesa.
“Scott’s brother dropped off a pack of beer for him. Scott enjoyed one while watching the cars go by. I was so happy to see even the families who didn’t regularly visit prior to COVID. This time has really showed us what family means to us all. Thanks to everyone for such a fantastic event!” Madeline Haywood, Mother of Mountain Shadows’ resident, Scott
“I was playing music in the gazebo, and I will always remember Scott’s family driving by. Scott’s brother could not contain himself. He was driving the vehicle, and he could not drive for a few minutes, because he was so welled up with emotion.” Vickie Perdaris, Activity Director
“I hung out between Birch and Crepe Myrtle’s tents, so I got to witness Reesa’s reaction when she saw her brother. She wasn’t really into the parade at first and seemed a little confused about what was going on. But once she saw her brother, she screamed out, ‘My brother! My brother!’ And she was pumping both of her arms in the air.” Christina Bandong, Registered Nurse
“On behalf of Paul and me, please pass along our appreciation to the entire staff at Mountain Shadows for making the car parade possible. Seeing Reesa and the other residents of Birch house was more emotional than anticipated! It was good seeing everyone looking healthy and happy.” Reesa’s brother, Stacy.
“It was so fun seeing all the residents! I hadn’t seen Michael since the beginning of March. I’m so thankful he’s at Mountain Shadows. I don’t have to worry about him. He’s happy. Mountain Shadows is his home. He couldn’t be in a better place.” Carol Haskin, Mountain Shadows Board of Directors, and Parent of Michael
“The Mountain Shadows car parade brought everybody together – and things were normal for that moment, even though we couldn’t touch,” adds Stacy. “It brought the campus back to life!”
Honk if You Love Mountain Shadows!!!
Mountain Shadows will continue to create new ways to bring our families even closer as we move through these uncertain times – together.
When you donate to Mountain Shadows Foundation,
you help advance the programs and services of
Mountain Shadows Support Group and Mountain Shadows Ancillary Services,
and help individuals with intellectual disabilities thrive.