Drive-by parade lifts spirits of Eckerd Living Center residents

Residents at Eckerd Living Center had the chance to see family members in-person for the first time in almost two months on Tuesday when over 40 cars paraded through the parking lot on Highlands-Cashiers Hospital’s campus.

Residents and staff at Eckerd Living Center were thrilled to watch a parade of loved ones drive through HCH’s campus on Tuesday.

In the current climate of stay-at-home orders and social-distancing to slow the spread of coronavirus, visitation is not allowed at ELC. That’s when ELC staff came up the idea for family, friends, and members of the community to drive through ELC’s parking lot to shout out messages to loved ones beyond the confines of a video chat.

ELC Director of Nursing Emily Bowers said residents are staying positive amid the COVID-19 pandemic and staff are doing what they can to brighten up their days, including Facetiming with family and watching livestreamed programs from local organizations and churches to keep residents connected with the community.

Cars in the parade made signs with messages of love for residents and staff at ELC.

However, Bowers and the rest of the ELC staff raised the bar by arranging a parade of loved ones on a gorgeous day in Highlands.

“It just brings so much joy to the residents to see their family members,” said Bowers. “The community showing up like they did means so much to them, and that makes us happy. We are here because we love geriatrics. We’re not only their caregivers, we’re their family, friends, and support system.”

Residents lined up along the curb as family and friends drove by sending messages of love.

HCH CEO Tom Neal said staff at ELC are thinking outside of the box for innovative ways to stay connected with family while remaining safe.

“It’s hard on all the residents not having family there with them, but ELC staff really got creative with how to make that happen,” said Neal. “I’ve never seen anything like this and didn’t know how it would go. Now that I’m seeing it, I couldn’t be more pleased. Today was not only uplifting for the residents, but for the staff as well. It takes special people to make this facility what it is.”

Some youngsters in the parade brought silly string to add to the festivities.

ELC Activities Coordinator Chase Nelson said they got the idea from other senior living homes throughout the country and thought they would give it a try.

“We just wanted people to be able to see their loved ones,” said Nelson. “We take it for granted that we get to see our loved ones every day. Our residents generally have a routine and see the same people every day, so having a ton of people come out was awesome to see. Everybody had a good time.”

Puppets also made an appearance in the parade.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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