Kennewick seniors celebrate Covid-19 vaccine’s arrival

Seniors at home on the day the vaccine arrived at Brookdale Canyon Lakes readily rolled up their sleeves to receive it.

The Kennewick senior living community had 18 hours’ notice to line up residents and staff for 200 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine in mid-January.

They were ready – and happy to receive it two weeks earlier than planned.

“I was elated, and I think we are so fortunate to be here and get the vaccine. It was all set up for us. … They had papers ready for us. We just had to sign our name,” said resident Joyce Green.

More than 125 residents received a dose of the Pfizer vaccine from CVS staff and the rest went to staff, private caregivers and health home agencies. Brookdale has three other sister communities in the Tri-Cities and their staff also received vaccines.

“Our goal was to be ready two weeks ahead of time so we were almost completely ready. Luckily, we were organized to have everything in place,” said Joe Green, executive director of Brookdale Canyon Lakes. He is not related to Joyce Green.

Ginger Vertrano, a retired nurse practitioner who lives there, said “It went so smoothly.”

Keeping residents safe

Barbara Anderson strikes a Rosie the Riveter pose after receiving her Covid-19 vaccine on Jan. 14 at Brookdale Canyon Lakes senior living community in Kennewick. (Courtesy Joe Green)

Brookdale, which operates more than 700 senior living communities in 43 states, has been at the leading edge in protecting seniors from Covid-19, and “our community in particular,” Joe Green said. “Over 7% of the U.S. population, at least, has had Covid-19, and (Brookdale Canyon Lakes) has not had one resident case in 11 months. Brookdale has just been fantastic. We’re so blessed to live and work here,” he said.

Vertrano was quick to agree.

Brookdale staff has been keeping residents informed – and safe.

“They’ve also kept us motivated to do the things we have to do to keep it from spreading. We’re adults and none of us want it, so we’ve been paying attention,” she said.

Brookdale staff wear medical face masks and face shields and maintain social distancing. They also add goggles and gloves when providing direct care.

“We’re taking a lot of extra precautions as staff because if Covid comes into the community, typically it is because staff aren’t following proper protocols or not being screened in appropriately. We’ve consistently educated staff on the risks of Covid-19 and symptoms, and are not explaining it away. How they behave outside of the community as well is so important,” Joe Green said.

Joyce Green said she appreciates the steps.

“They come every day to test each resident. They come to the door and take our temperature and our oxygen level, which is very nice,” she said.

Staying connected

Though the virus has changed the way Brookdale residents go about their day, those who live there have plenty of options to be social, Vertrano said.

Joe Green said there’s a stereotype about senior living during the pandemic that everyone is isolated. He said he was more isolated working from home than his residents were.

“Residents are staying in their apartments or they’re going out and about, but practicing safety measures, just like all of us. They have a lot of engagement opportunities. They have food delivery, interaction with others,” he said.

Joyce Green uses Brookdale Canyon Lake’s designated visiting room at least once a week, sometimes more.

“The residents can go into this vacant apartment and sit by the door that leads to the patio, and then our visitor can sit out on the patio and talk through the glass door. It’s very nice. You get to see your family members and visit with them. And really it’s better than when you’re in a family situation where you just can’t talk to somebody for a long time. I have their full attention when they’re here and it’s just great, and I love that room,” she said.

“Now that the weather has turned colder, they put a heater out there so our visitors don’t freeze to death. It’s very thoughtful of them,” she said.

She’s also a fan of Zoom for keeping in touch.

“Since I learned how to use it, I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family in Southern California, and I had dinner with them right at their table. I was the elf on the shelf I guess,” she said with a laugh.

Vertrano said the music program Brookdale offered weekly continued while the weather was warm. “They still held it but they held it in sections so people who were on one part of the manor could see it, then in another part could see it …  They tried to very hard to keep us entertained,” she said.

But there’s no denying the past year has been difficult, said Eleanor Ferreira, a retired nurse who has lived at Brookdale for seven years.

“When this hit, it’s been very, very hard for old people to not be able to have people around them. It’s very depressing and very isolating. … We’ve got a lot of people who have said: ‘I’m ready to go home,’ and it’s sad because they still have lots of life to live,” she said.

Get the vaccine facts

Ferreira encouraged people to learn the facts about the vaccine

“When you listen to news, you get all kinds of ideas and some are right and some aren’t. … They have all these scare stories about people going into shock and everything else. Well, you know, when you scare people, it’s hard to get their trust. But when you know all the facts, and how small a percentage that is, you don’t have to worry quite that bad.

“And they had all of us sit for 15 minutes to see how it reacted. Of the 200 that got vaccines here, we didn’t have anybody (who had a reaction). So you know, that’s a pretty good percentage,” she said.

Joyce Green shook her head when asked if the vaccine made her arm sore. “I watched on the news and people saying negative things about how you got headaches later. I’ve had absolutely none of that. The shot itself was very easy. No pain,” she said.

They have all received the second booster shot on Feb. 4. He said that’s the day Brookdale handed out the “I got my Covid-19 vaccine” stickers, which arrived too late for the first round.

The seniors didn’t mind; they were happy to show off their vaccination cards.

“That will be our passport into airlines, sporting events, theaters. We’ll have that card to show we had the vaccination,” Ferreira said.

The group of seniors who spoke to the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business via a Zoom call urged everyone to get vaccinated.

“I just thought everybody should have it. It gives us so much protection that if everybody got it, we wouldn’t have it trailing down through the years,” Ferreira said.

“Please get it,” Vertrano implored. “I don’t know how easy it is for everybody. It was easy for us. … We were very lucky to be here and get it. But please get it.”

Vertrano said though she’s gotten her dose, she’ll continue to take the same precautions against the virus that causes Covid-19: “It’s still out there.”

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