AMSTERDAM — Katherine Badawy, the recreation director at the Sentinel of Amsterdam, knew she had to do something on Christmas for the residents cooped up in lockdown living at the assisted living facility.
Her challenge was simple: How can you bring people together for the holidays, when you need to keep people apart to protect them from the coronavirus pandemic?
“We had Christmas parties yesterday, but it was limited to each floor, because you have to be careful in case of spread,” she said of the virus. “We’ve only had one positive case in here. We’re very fortunate that we haven’t had an outbreak inside the building.”
Badawy said New York state COVID-19 guidelines led to a complete quarantine at the Sentinel about a week before Thanksgiving. She said the 148 residents at the 150-bed facility have been required to stay mostly in their rooms with limited travel between floors and trips outside the building.
“The activities program, which I run, was no longer able to use the community room, so my assistant and I go to each room now to do activities, pushing around a beverage cart,” she said. “We do one-on-one activities per room, as many as we can per day. We do bingo. We do Kokino. We do exercising every day. We have crossword puzzles. We designed our own crafts and ornaments.”
Badawy said visitations at the Sentinel had increased to about 30 to 40 people per day after coronavirus restrictions had eased during the summer.
“People would drop off packages, and some would come multiple times per day,” she said. “Our residents are close to our families, so it’s hard. We were doing window visits for a while, but now it’s Facetime calls, which I set up using an iPad, so the screen is bigger so they can see better.”
Badawy said she decided the best way to create a group experience for the residents of the Sentinel was to have a small parade outside of the building.
“Fire Chief Agresta said he would have no problem doing that and he got a couple of other police officers to assist with that,” he said.
Kevin Bonner, a resident at the Sentinel since July, watched the parade. He said it’s been tough being separated from his family, but it was nice to see that people cared.
“I thought that was pretty cool, it was a surprise,” he said sitting in his wheelchair outside the facility.
Badawy said she then asked DJ Mike Garrassi, owner of Music Man Entertainment, to play Christmas music for one hour on either side of the building.
Garrassi said he wanted it to be a surprise, and for most of the residents it was.
“I had no idea that was even happening,” Bonner said of the music.
Garrassi said he was gratified to see some of the residents dancing at their windows to the Christmas songs.
“Everybody’s got to do their part in the world,” he said. “For me it’s no big deal, for them it’s a big deal.”