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Cortland Foundation spreads optimism among staff

(left to right): Activities staff Logan Evans, Cindy Helmick & Director Marie Grafton proudly wear their “Cortland Hero” t-shirt provided by The Cortland Foundation.

THOMAS, W.Va. – There is no denying that the COVID pandemic has had a tremendous effect on people around the world. Significant changes to our daily routine and the 24-hour news cycle only serve to increase the feelings of vulnerability and uncertainty. Humans are social creatures, after all, so procedures calling for social distancing, no touching, staying at home, and wearing face masks have gone against the grain of human nature.

Worry and stress are normal human responses when people are in a tate of danger or threat. Like nursing homes around the country, Cortland was directed to make changes to minimize the possibility of the virus infecting its residents and staff. As news outlets reported rising COVID cases, essential workers continued to report to work. For nursing homes, that encompasses just about everyone.

“Residents are encouraged to stay in their rooms and all group activities and visitation curtailed,” explains Cortland Administrator Beth Clevenger. “This virus isn’t about getting sick yourself, but spreading it to the people, you live with and at work. The residents at Cortland are our family, and everyone was extremely mindful that they had the potential to infect their family.”

Almost immediately, The Cortland Foundation saw the need to break the stress with fun activities that may have been deemed too silly pre-pandemic. The internal broadband channel was quickly enlisted to encourage weekly “dancing in the hallway” to favorites like the Macarena, Electric Slide and the Chicken Dance. The Activities department saw the potential in the internal broadband feed and expanded the ever-popular BINGO sessions to three days a week. Let’s Make A Deal was a massive hit among residents.

In addition to fun activities, The Cortland Foundation made a generous donation to fund a series of measures to support staff. Starting early April, the Foundation began a fun and food campaign that continued through the end of May.

Cecil Miller of Dietary was Mystery Box winner # 3. He won family games and snacks as part of The Cortland Foundation’s staff campaign.

“How do you keep fun and excitement at work during a life and death pandemic,” asks Foundation Director and Cortland Director of Development Dan Bucher? “That was our task. Amid daily briefings from the Governor and rapid changes to procedures and protocols, we did our best to help any way we could. We aimed to create activities that would help staff balance work and home life, and make coming to work more enjoyable.”

Through eight weeks, The Foundation provided snacks, shift lunches, and take-home meals for staff and their families. Gift cards to area merchants, especially grocery, was top-rated. An inventive “Mystery Box” activity revolved around the daily drawing of a random wrapped box and quickly became a staff favorite. The Foundation created banners for the front of Cortland announcing “Compassionate HERO’S Work HERE” and gave staff matching t-shirts. Later on, a second t-shirt, Cortland Strong were given to residents and staff and created an immediate bond.

“All the activities and food made coming to work fun,” explains Michelle Snyder, LPN from Thomas, WV. “It felt like you were getting a gift, a present every day, and it took my mind off of the stress of the COVID virus. I felt appreciated.” Those sentiments were shared by Samantha “Sam” Rexroad of Scherr, WV. “It was pretty awesome,” proclaims Rexroad. “It made you feel appreciated during a rough time.”

The Cortland Foundation distributed “Cortland Strong” t-shirt to all residents and staff as part of their fun campaign running since April, 2020.

“We are all in this together,” proclaimed Administrator Beth Clevenger. “The activities, food, and t-shirts sponsored by The Foundation added a little fun into the day. The Cortland Strong shirts created an enormous camaraderie among residents and staff. It solidified our family spirit.

Cortland is currently in Phase Yellow of WV’s COVID response protocols for nursing homes with limited visitation. All visitors must make an appointment, wear some face covering, maintain the minimum 6 feet social distancing, use proper hand hygiene, and refrain from touching or hugging the resident. Under this phase, no one under the age of 12 years is allowed to visit.

The Cortland Acres campus includes a 94-bed long-term care facility, a 5,100 square foot rehabilitation center, inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs, independent living units at Pineview, and The Pines. The campus also houses a health center and pharmacy as well as medical specialties for more information on Cortland Acres or to set up an appointment or tour call 304-463-4181 or visit www.cortlandacres.org.

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