Golden years find great care at St. Dominic Village
April 28, 2020
Above: Dr. Winston Watkins Jr., at left, and his mother greet her husband Winston Watkins Sr., at right, through a window at St. Dominic Village in Houston. Below: Under a colorful set of balloons, another resident greets her family across the street on her 90th birthday they sing to her during her socially distant party. St. Dominic Village closed off its campus to visitors in early March in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photos by St. Dominic Village)
HOUSTON — Life goes on for residents at St. Dominic Village.
Residents still enjoy their typical social activities, said Amy Shields, CEO and administrator of the Texas Medical Center-area senior care community located on Holcombe Boulevard.
There are still social hours, happy hours, ice cream socials, snack time with popcorn and cookies, just social distance-style like the rest of the world. The staff brings around the good times with “activities on wheels” since communal dining and activities have been put on hold.
There’s still the thrill of a good game of bingo, with numbers and letters called from a cart in the middle of the hallways, each resident sitting socially distant apart at their doors. Sing-a-longs and trivia contests still bringing harmony and brain challenges.
But when senior care centers across the world stopped welcoming visitors, a concerted, difficult effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus infection among a very vulnerable elderly population, life changed for the residents at St. Dominic Village.
But even so, Shields and her staff “stay vigilant” in incredible efforts to ensure that residents are both safe, comfortable and spiritually cared for during the pandemic.
With the physical absence of visitors within the doors of the center, staff are utilizing the internet to video chat, send photos and videos, and assist with the good old-fashioned phone call. The staff notifies families of any changes in a resident’s condition, and residents’ families are always welcome to call at any time, according to Shields.
While visitors are permitted to drop off care packages and items like notes, pictures and snacks for their residents, Shields said they actively sanitize them to protect their community.
Like other places of worship across the Archdiocese, the Warren Chapel remains closed to worshipers.
“Spiritual care is so important to so many of our residents,” Shields said. “And since we have had to close Warren Chapel, we have been having Mass and livestreaming it to our residents’ rooms.”
The Village’s spiritual care director also provided residents material and information on ways to continue spiritual care via television.
Though there have been no positive cases of COVID-19 on campus, Shields admitted the coronavirus pandemic provided new and different challenges for her staff and their residents.
These include the limitations of families and residents no longer being able to visit with each other, the decision to limit the admission of new residents in the Village’s independent and assisted living centers to keep current residents safe, among others like lack of access to personal protective equipment.
The Village was not spared from the financial difficulties of the pandemic. Shields said they had to cancel two major fundraisers and were seeing a loss of revenue due to the decrease in hospital discharges to their facilities.
Still, time goes on, and birthdays are still celebrated.
When a resident turned 90 years old, her family turned out to party across the parking lot with balloons, signs and more to mark the special event.
On social media, the Village continued to share posts with photos of smiling residents toting handmade bilingual signs with messages of love and care to their family and friends.
In a message to a younger loved one, one resident wrote: “I miss you and hope all is well. I am doing okay, and I hope you are staying inside.” Maternal love crosses all boundaries.
Shields said she was inspired by the generosity of so many despite the pandemic.
“Families and visitors … have donated masks, medical supplies and resources” to the Village, she said.
She credits the Village’s staff for their ever-vigilant efforts to care for their residents.
“They have continued to provide the same level of care to our residents, all while dealing with the personal aspects of this pandemic in their own lives and families,” she said. “They show up each day and love our residents like their own.”
For more information about St. Dominic Village, call 713-741-8701 or visit www.stdominicvillage.org.