In April, when the staff at Monmouth Crossing Assisted Living, Freehold, NJ, noticed that one of their longtime residents, then 93-year-old Madeline Tagliavia, didn’t seem quite like her usual self, they jumped into action.
“The nurses at Monmouth Crossing called us right away to let us know that my mother was suffering from a low-grade fever and a headache,” said Mary Vitale, Madeline’s daughter, who was out of state at the time.
Monmouth Crossing’s longtime staff and continuity of care – from the nurses to the housekeepers, the dining assistants to administrators – means that they can often spot (and resolve) issues with their residents even before the residents themselves.
Following the doctor’s instructions, the staff continued to monitor her temperature and, when Madeline developed a cough as well, they brought her to the hospital where she tested positive for COVID-19.
“They caught it early because they really know her,” said Jon Vitale, Madeline’s son-in-law. “Because of that, doctors were able to get ahead of virus with a combination of medications and she was released after just three days.”
Madeline was then admitted to The Manor Health and Rehabilitation Center, CentraState’s short-term rehabilitation and long-term skilled nursing facility located just across the street from Monmouth Crossing, to finish her recovery.
After just over a week at The Manor, Madeline was able to return to her Monmouth Crossing home. “She couldn’t wait to get back!” Mary said.
The Vitales weren’t at all surprised by Madeline’s enthusiasm for getting back to her apartment.
“The staff knows how she loves to get involved whenever they do crafts. With safety precautions over COVID right now, they can no longer meet in the activity room to do them, but she’s delighted when they bring them to her room,” described Mary. “Right now, she’s actually painting a bird cage.”
Madeline is not the only one in the Vitale’s family who enjoys calling Monmouth Crossing her home.
Three years before Madeline moved to Monmouth Crossing, Jon’s mother, Marie, moved into the community. Eleven months after she suffered a stroke, Marie was ready to transition from Applewood, Centrastate’s continuing care retirement community, over to an assisted living facility.
“We had taken my mother to look at another facility, but she thought it was just too big and had too many floors. She wouldn’t have felt as secure there as she feels at Monmouth Crossing,” noted Jon.
While the health and safety of the residents has always been of the utmost importance to the facility, it is an even bigger focus now, said Heleyne Gladstein, who has been Monmouth Crossing’s Administrator since 2008. Monmouth Crossing continues to exceed COVID-19 guidelines from the CDC and the NJ Department of Health, including the wearing of recommended personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitizing all instruments and gowning before entering rooms. Staff members are also tested weekly to ensure that they aren’t bringing the virus in with them.
To keep in touch with their families, the staff has been coordinating video chats or outdoor visits. But it’s the added touches to bring families together that make all the difference.
“Since we could not see Mom during the lockdown, my brother and I started sending her pictures of the family and grandchildren in the mail so she can enjoy watching them grow up in this difficult time. Mom would always go through them and put them on her kitchen table,” Jon explained. “One day, a nurse came in with a photo album that she purchased on her own to put all the photos in one place and enjoy them forever. Now, it’s so easy for her to flip through the album and enjoy her family.”
Monmouth Crossing is also taking advantage of the technology available today by offering personalized virtual tours to potential new residents rather than bringing outsiders in to view the facilities in person to keep their residents safe from illness.
They also now allow small outdoor, masked and socially-distanced group gatherings to keep residents socially engaged and their minds sharp, including their recent Fourth of July party.
The community also hosts multiple decorative-themed carts like a pirate ship, love boat, pet adoption, farmers’ market and strolling happy hour with wine, cheese and grapes. Monmouth Crossing even brought its own mascot, a cockatiel named Houdini, on a safari cart that visited the residents in their rooms.
And, as the curve for COVID-19 continues to flatten in New Jersey, Monmouth Crossing will continue expanding their social offerings. For example, Monmouth Crossing is now offering outdoor dining several days a week at appropriately distanced tables, with the expectation that they will soon allow indoor dining in small groups with partitioned barriers. Indoor small group activities are expected to start again on September 1.
Even with the challenges that the coronavirus presents, the Vitales know their mothers are in good hands.
“Our mothers have nothing but the best to say about Monmouth Crossing. The staff is very personal and responsive. They know them so well, they can see if there’s a problem in advance and that certainly saved us during this time of COVID,” said Mary.
To learn more about Monmouth Crossing Assisted Living, click here.