As Brene Brown said, “Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”

Our work at Ecumen, pandemic or not, is centered around connections; the connections we make with our residents, our families, our partners and our team.

Just over six months ago, we implemented CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services)

regulation and were required to close our doors to visitors. Responding to the regulation was an emotional time for everyone. We knew so little about the virus that was changing the world by the minute.

In the early days of the pandemic, we were faced with regulations and guidance that changed so quickly, we’d start in one direction in the morning, and by the afternoon, we were going in the opposite direction. Along with keeping up with the changing regulations, our team was incredibly focused on keeping our residents connected to their families and friends.

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Over the past six months, our methods of maintaining connections included educating our residents and families on the use of technology, developing a platform for online scheduling of Zoom visits, window visits, courtyard visits, and welcoming a limited number of ‘Essential Caregivers’ back inside.

We worked with our provider partners to conduct virtual visits to allow our residents to maintain their relationships with their providers. Through grant opportunities, we were able to create “connection stations” in our outdoor visiting spaces. The stations are constructed of plexiglass and provide an opportunity for residents to visit safely without masks.

With a little more creativity and additional grant funding, we changed our Adult Day Services program’s delivery model. The program was initially closed following the guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health. Since the closure, we have safely shifted the programming from a group model to a more individualized model of one-on-one visits for those who live on our campus. Though the group setting is missed by many, the one-on-one visits are treasured by both the participant and our team members.

With a lot of ingenuity and even more teamwork, we have found ways to bring joy to our residents, even in the middle of a pandemic.

We have been and will continue to be grateful for the support that has been given to us from our

local community. From the many mask-makers -- who very early on spent hours scouring the

stores and internet for elastic to make masks for our team and residents -- to the shoppers who

added extra supplies to their carts to share with us; to the artists, young and old, who took time to write letters and draw pictures to brighten our days; to the prayer warriors who continue to pray for our residents and teams; to our families and friends who have continued to place their trust in us, thank you.

Ecumen as an organization has been established for over 150 years, and locally, our campus in Detroit Lakes has served our community for over 60 years. We have seen many changes on our campus and in our community over the past several decades. Our organization, and our community, have proven to adapt to the changing environment to continue forging ahead.

The post-COVID-19 world will undoubtedly look different from the pre-COVID-19 world, but one thing that will remain the same is the need to stay connected. One day we will tell our pandemic story with a smile on our face and tears in our eyes because the days were long and hard, but we overcame it because we truly were “all in it together.”

Danielle Olson
Danielle Olson