BILLINGS — To celebrate Mother's Day, staff at Lasting Legacy Assisted Living in the Billings Heights organized a parade filled with resident's family members that drove by the facility to say hello on Sunday afternoon.
"We just figured it would be a fun way for them to see their loved ones. It’s too bad they couldn’t hug them and touch them and have lunch with them. But we figured this was a fun way for us to kind of bring the families to them," said Jessica Malek a registered nurse at Lasting Legacy.
Until the parade, many kids and grandkids of the 25 Lasting Legacy residents hadn't seen their family members in-person since March 13, when the facility closed to visitors.
"Right now, we are still on complete lockdown until phase three of the reopening. So we tried to think of a way that (residents) could see their loved ones," Malek said.
About 20 cars packed with family members made the drive into Lasting Legacy's parking lot. As the cars made a three point turn to drive away, their occupants blew kisses and waved to the residents seated on the sidewalk.
For folks in the facility, seeing a face other than that of the assisted living staff was welcome change of pace.
"Man, it’s been hard. They miss their family. They miss their friends. We have a lot of people that went to church every Sunday who now we’re asking them to stay here, don’t go to the doctor, nobody can come in, nobody can leave. We’ve been asking a lot of the residents too," Malek said.
Other than the parade, some interaction has still been able to take place between residents and family during the COVID-19 pandemic. People have talked over the phone and some have been able to chat through an open bedroom window, Malek said.
Bobi Allard has spoken to her 95-year-old mother Anne Jonutis a few times over the past weeks through her bedroom window. Allard attended the parade with her brother, Stan Jonutis
The quick drive-by was the first time the siblings have gotten a good look at her mother in about two months.
“Thanks again to the staff that organized this thing. I didn’t know what to expect, but they did a great job," Stan said.
Anne has been bedridden for two years due to stroke. Staff had to lift her from the bed to a wheelchair and bundle her from the wind to get her outside for the parade.
“She doesn’t get up very often. But we knew her family was coming and we promised that we would bundle her up. I think she had about five blankets, a hat, and we got her up just so she could see her family because she misses them so terribly," Malek said.
The siblings credited the Lasting Legacy staff for their work with keeping up their mother's spirits while in isolation.
“When Mom had kind of a down day, the nurse will call and say ‘Bobi, you’re mom would kind of like to talk to you,’” Allard said.
Staff at the facility have gotten pretty close to one another over the course of the pandemic.
“Our staff, we’ve kind of become a really close family through all of this because we really had to rely on each other to keep each other safe. Just because we know our population that lives in assisted living are vulnerable and how dangerous COVID-19 could be to them. So we really have had to do what we can to protect these people," Malek said.