Hilary Masthson, Nazareth Home CliftonHeld annually since 1967 and kicking off on Mother’s Day, National Skilled Nursing Care Center Week (NSNCW) was celebrated during the week of May 10-16 this year. The observance is sponsored by the American Health Care Association (AHCA) and recognizes the role of skilled nursing centers in caring for America’s seniors and individuals with disabilities.

Not Conceding to Crisis

Many plans and activities were in place well before the first news of the COVID-19 crisis. Because nursing centers were among the first and hardest hit by the pandemic, there was thought of canceling or postponing NSNCW.

However, along with the devastating news and growing crises in many nursing centers, there were also stories about the life-saving efforts of frontline staff and their dedication to protecting the residents in their care. resident

Recognizing the amazing work of certified nurse assistants, nurses, food service workers, and other nursing center staff members is at the root of NSNCW, and for this reason, despite the challenges of these uncertain times, the event went forward as scheduled.

Sharing Their Wisdom

Each year there is a special theme for NSNCW with activities and events that build on it. In February, AHCA announced that this year’s theme, Sharing Our Wisdom, would focus on the collective wisdom that residents can offer and share. Centers were encouraged to showcase the insight and wisdom of seniors, those living with dementia, and people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Wisdom TreeWhile not all centers were able to celebrate the week, others pivoted, adapted, and got quite creative. Despite social distancing rules and the inability of friends and family to enter the buildings, nursing centers across the country developed wonderful ways to honor their staff and residents during NSNCW.

Photos and stories, shared via Twitter and Facebook, depict activities and events ranging from fun and uplifting, like ice cream deliveries, line dancing, costume parties, contests, and raffles, to opportunities for connection, such as drive-by caravans, live outdoor concerts, hallway games, and social media visits with loved ones.

Building on the theme, residents in many nursing centers created signs and posters with messages of advice for young people that ranged from humorous to profound. Another center adapted plans for a project connecting residents with high school students before COVID-19.

“Since then, it has taken on so much more meaning to all of us to get wonderful advice and insight from our seniors on how to handle life’s challenges,” says Becky Greenberg, director of activities at Bradford Ecumenical Home, where residents shared words of wisdom to graduating students via notecards.

Common advice themes included treating others with kindness, having patience, working hard, thinking positively, and having fun.

Honoring Staff

Looking toward the future, one center created and buried a time capsule with pictures and stories to be read 25 years from now. In many states, governors signed special NSNCW proclamations, and, in others, elected officials sent heartwarming videos and messages of gratitude and support to health care workers and nursing center staff.

Mercer CollegeIn the words of Pamela Fink, assistant executive director at Mercer Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, “The inspiration for [the collage, left] came from some of the negative reporting, or in a lot of cases, a lack of reporting on the endeavors of nursing homes to provide excellent patient care as well as prevent the current pandemic.

“Long term care employees do not chose this profession for love of the money, but rather because they have a calling: a calling to take care of others. We are guests in these residents’ homes, not places to work. We are blessed with taking care of someone’s grandparent, parent, uncle, aunt, friend, sibling. We are in long term care because we care.”

Although the week was recognized in many unique and creative ways, the primary focus in every center was to honor and recognize the commitment and dedication of nursing center staff, especially during these hard times, and to celebrate the lives of residents in their care.

To view all the many ways that NSNCW was recognized this year, please visit #NSNCW, Facebook.com/#NSNCW, and NSNCW.org.

Lisa Hohenemser is marketing manager for the American Health Care Association.​