By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
EDMESTON – Like many people, Laurie enjoys going to her favorite coffee shop – the Pathfinder Village Bakery – in the morning.
But with COVID-19 closing down the campus and confining the residents to their homes, the bakery is closed. But her house manager, Jamie Miner, set up a coffee shop on her back porch, complete with a freshly brewed pot and coffee shop cups.
“She pours her own coffee and pays for it, then sits at her dining room table, happy and content,” said CEO Paul Landers. “That’s love in action.”
The COVID-19 crisis is especially difficult for people with special needs, including the people with Down Syndrome at Pathfinder, Landers said.
“People with disabilities can’t fully grasp what’s going on and why they’re quarantined,” he said. “It feels like a punishment to them. They don’t understand why they can’t see their friends or have their families come visit.”
For a resident like Laurie, such changes in routine can be very stressful, so the Direct Support Professional staff has had to get creative with how they work with their clients.
“What they’re facing is so much more of a challenge than what we’re facing,” he said.
But to keep everyone entertained while under shelter-in-place, the staff has started coming up with weekly craft projects and in-house challenges.
“We have a contest on now to decorate according to our ‘Covid Creed’,” he said. “Our motto now is ‘Be Healthy, Be Kind, Be Patient,’ and we’re asking for them to decorate and come up with stories about how they’re living that creed.”
Judges will award prizes based on best decorated, most creative and other categories. “It gives them something to do other than just stare at four walls,” he said. “They can go to the gym, one house at a time, for an activity, and we disinfect between each one. It’s about making that downtime manageable.”
And every day, Landers or a member of the executive staff makes the rounds to every house, waving through the windows.
They held their annual Easter Sunday service online, and residents could stream with their families. “Technology has been a great tool to help them connect with people,” he said. “They can remotely connect with friends and family, as well as support staff.”
Even for clients who don’t live on the Pathfinder campus, the DSP staff are taking steps to make sure they still feel like part of the community.
“We have one graduate, Amanda, who lives locally and attended our day programming,” he said. “Roxanne Mills, one of our DSPs, took lunch over to her and set it on her porch, so she sat outside and Roxanne sat in her car, but they could still have a lunch date.”
They’ve put signage in place to remind residents to practice social distancing, hand-washing and wearing masks. “Our nurses did videos to show how and why we wear masks,” said Landers.
The mobile market is still making the rounds delivering food to Medicaid recipients, and when produce grown in the spring greenhouse is ready, they’ll resume the Pathfinder Village farmer’s market, with curbside delivery.
And the community has stepped up in response. “People made and donated 600 masks,” he said. “They sent Easter gifts and toys. The response has been extraordinary, and we’re so thankful for it.”