The nursing home industry may never be the same after the coronavirus pandemic. Back in May, nursing homes and assisted living communities accounted for 45% of all COVID-19 deaths. Barring visitors from entry, many facilities remain on lockdown, which compounds the loneliness of the pandemic.
We recently reported on how the crisis has affected the health of many nursing home residents. Some do not understand what’s going on around them, while others simply refuse to eat when their loved ones are not there to comfort them. The staff cannot interact with them the way they used to, which means many residents are left alone in their rooms most of the day.
Ashley Moore is known for her beautiful singing voice at Perry County Nursing Home in Marion, Alabama, where she works as a licensed practical nurse. She’s using the intercom to stay connected to residents during the pandemic, so they can hear her sing when they can’t visit with their loved ones.
The Power of Song
Moore has always been an avid singer. She used to hum tunes as she walked up and down the halls of the Perry County Nursing Home. The residents loved the sound of her voice as it would bounce off the walls and into their rooms.
She says singing became a way of lifting their spirits. “From then on, I sang, because…you know they’re living in a nursing home, this is where they’re going to be. I don’t exactly know how they’re feeling at the moment. But if I can do anything to brighten their day, I will.”
Her voice became a staple in the community. Moore would often perform during group activities and church services where residents would gather in common areas. She would even meet with them individually to sing their favorite songs.
However, things changed after the pandemic. Residents could no longer gather with one another and the facility swiftly canceled all group activities. Visitors were also banned from entry and Moore and her colleagues began limiting their contact with residents to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and preserve PPE.
Fannie Bates, a 75-year-old resident at the facility, commented on the changes. “These past few months have been, I don’t know, it’s very lonesome. Cause most people used to see their family, you know, getting together and everything.”
As many nurses know, working under these circumstances can be stressful to the say the least. Like many other teams, Moore and the staff started to suffer from low morale. The sense of community at the facility was quickly replaced with quiet hallways and nervous employees.
Residents could no longer hear Moore singing, but things took a turn when Sharon Phillips, the administrator at Perry County Nursing Home, decided to use the loudspeaker to keep in touch with everyone in the building.
“We were just trying to figure out ways to continue to try to keep some kind of normalcy in there,” Moore told a local news outlet.
Moore immediately volunteered. She took the microphone, said a short prayer, and began singing a range of beautiful tunes. Her voice reached every room, bringing joy to the residents.
She specializes in singing gospel hymns, which brings faith to those living at the facility. Bates said it’s just what she wanted to hear. “She does a great job with singing and a great meaning to it and I just love something like that.”
Her first appearance elicited a range of emotional responses from everyone in the facility. “The reaction was nothing like I thought it would be,” Moore said. “Everybody hears me sing. I didn’t know that those words to that song meant so much to them. People were even crying.”
Preserving a sense of normalcy and community can be difficult during the pandemic. From uplifting messages and notes to inspirational songs, look for small ways to keep in touch with your patients during this stressful time. We’re not all blessed with a beautiful singing voice like Moore’s, but we can all do our part to make the best of the situation.