Lehi senior residents staying safe through pandemic, balancing social well-being

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LEHI, Utah (ABC4 ) – Since the pandemic began, COVID-19 outbreaks have hit hard at long-term care facilities. The Utah Department of Health has reported that almost every facility in the state has experienced one outbreak. But at one Utah County center, officials said they’ve never had an outbreak.

At the onset of COVID-19, restrictions were put in place across senior living centers statewide, in an effort to protect people from contracting the respiratory virus.

Bellaview Assisted Living and Memory Care in Lehi opened in May 2020, mid-pandemic.

Janalene Hamner and Diane Serdar moved in a few months after it opened and remember what it was like at the height of the fall surge.

“We were in lockdown, we wore masks, and washed our hands, used sanitizing, all that kind of things,” Hamner said.

“We were here for all of the holidays, which was very difficult because our family could not come in,” said Serdar said.  

Dee Flepcher was at a different facility before moving to Bellaview a few months ago. She said for two years she didn’t get to see her family, and the day she finally did was a moment she’ll not forget.

“I’ve got two boys and I hadn’t seen them, and I’ve got eight grandchildren and it was great to see them all,” Felpcher said.

Tight restrictions were hard on Utah’s senior community, but Serdar said she understood why.

“We kinda knew that things were bad and that we would just have to be patient until things opened up,” she said.

Currently, 32 long-term care facilities out of 352 in the state are experiencing multiple COVID-19 cases among residents; and there are 36 facilities with only healthcare workers testing positive.

Throughout the pandemic, UDOH reports 295 facilities have had an outbreak, but 57 have been fortunate to not have one. Bellaview is one of those.

“Just like you had to go through temperature checks, wear a mask and make sure you don’t have any symptoms,” said Bellaview owner Jeff Southard, who explained to ABC4 the precautions in place to keep everyone healthy.

In order to live and/or work at the center, Southard said everyone is required to be vaccinated against the virus. And with every resident fully vaccinated, he said residents do not have to wear a mask.

“In our community, we’re trying to be very careful to follow the state guidelines and some additional things we think are important,” he said.

While the residents’ health is top of mind, Southard said so is the residents’ social well-being.

“We’re doing safe types of activities where they can either social distance or keep masks on, but still have a quality of life that keeps them vibrant and healthy in more ways than just the pandemic,” Southard said.

Playing games and getting together with friends, residents told ABC4 they consider everyone at Bellaview their family and they’re glad to be doing things they enjoy.

“We’ve gone up to American Fork and had picnics and fed the ducks and gone all different places,” Felpcher said.

“Jan and I have been working on a puzzle for a week and we’re still struggling, but we’re having a good time,” Serdar said.

With the Delta variant causing cases to surge once again, residents told ABC4 they’re being cautious, but are not overly worried.

“No, I’m not worried about it. I probably won’t go out anywhere, but someone could bring it in but if that happens, it happens,” Hamner said.

“They still take precautions of everyone that comes in here,” Serdar said. “But if someone comes down with an illness or sickness, they’re watched very closely.”

“You just have to deal with it, let it run its course. I’m at the point, when it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go,” Flepcher said.

For many living in retirement communities and independent living facilities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports because of age or underlying health conditions they’re at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Online the CDC breaks down how people can stay safe during the pandemic.

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