REFUGIO – A parade in a small town always has a sense of anticipation and excitement in the air. It is a time to come together to celebrate.
Such was the case Friday, July 3, as the families and friends of Refugio Nursing and Rehab Center residents lined up for a honk parade to celebrate Independence Day.
The residents were in place on the front lawn, some with signs, as they eagerly waited for the parade to start.
The first entrant in the parade was “Heidi the Clown” on her unicycle. A Dairy Queen float, Refugio Volunteer Fire Department trucks, a family on bicycles and numerous vehicles followed. Cars were decorated with posters with names and messages of love. Bringing up the rear was the Refugio County Independence Belles equestrian drill team.
One by one the parade entrants passed in front of the nursing home with honks, waves, cheers and shouts of love. The residents eagerly waved back and some clapped, especially when they saw their own family members.
Some of the parade participants as well as some of the residents were moved to tears.
For the residents, it was not just a celebration of independence for the United States, the day also represented their liberty from being kept inside and isolated from loved ones since March 19.
That is when Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting visitors to nursing homes and retirement communities. Since then those in the nursing home have had to spend the majority of the time in their assigned rooms.
They are not able to gather for meals in the dining room, watch television in the common area or gather for weekly religious services. Many of them have formed friendships and previously enjoyed visiting and playing dominoes with one another; but, that is not possible with the social distancing mandate. An the worst blow of all ... families have not been able to visit.
The staff at Refugio Nursing and Rehab Center is tasked with helping the residents cope with all of the challenges that COVID-19 has brought.
Diane Balusek, activities director, has come up with some ideas to help bring some joy to the residents’ days. They play games such as bingo. In groups of three, with each resident sitting in the doorway of their own room, Balusek calls out the numbers. She only does three at a time to make it easier for all players to hear the numbers being called.
Soda pop pong is another favorite of the residents. Six cups, half-filled with water, are placed on the resident’s tray. They are given 12 ping pong balls to bounce on the tray and try to land them in the cups of water. Whoever gets the most balls in the cups of water wins a diet soda.
Several genres of music including country, soft rock, hits from the ’60s and ’70s and Tejano have been downloaded onto Ipod shuffles. Approximately 20 residents, using their own headphones, are allowed to choose the type of music they would like to listen to. This gives them the opportunity to listen to their favorite type of music for three to four hours a day.
When a resident has a birthday it is announced over the PA system. Birthdays are celebrated monthly with cake and ice cream. Special meals and treats are served on holidays.
Modified visits from family members are allowed. Those wanting to visit should call the nursing home at 361-526-4641 to make arrangements prior to the visit. A staff member will bring the resident to the front window of the nursing home with the family member standing outside. They can then talk to one another by cell phone.
Families can also connect with residents via Skype. This can also be arranged by calling to schedule a time.
When asked if there is anything the public can do to help ease the burden during this time Balusek said that one thing she would like is a set of wireless remote control cars so the residents can have races down the hallways.