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Creating Community

How senior citizens at Anthology coped with the pandemic

Last year, Parkville resident Gareld Butler’s father, Duane, fell while he was living independently. Gareld had no choice but to place his father, who lived in his hometown in Nebraska, in an assisted living facility there — hours away from him.

The year was rough on Duane, who couldn’t see his son due to pandemic-related restrictions at the facility. Duane actually contracted COVID-19 in November of 2020 and was bussed to an offsite facility where they housed residents who tested positive in complete isolation. Gareld never even saw the inside of either facility where his father was living, and, as a result, had a limited understanding of his father’s health. In early 2021, Gareld was informed that his father had fallen again and his leg was broken in three places. After his time in rehab was up, Gareld had to find a place for him and knew something needed to change.

So in February, he called Anthology at Burlington Creek in Kansas City and asked if they had room for his father. He knew it was a long shot. His father was in rough shape — his doctors weren’t even sure he could handle the trip between Lincoln and Kansas City, and Duane required a two-person transfer, which other places struggled to accommodate. But Anthology found a place for him and Gareld says his new home has made a world of a difference for his 93-year old dad.

“He was getting stronger after he’d been here about a month or two,” says Gareld. “He’s flourished, he really has.”

Gareld says his father has made huge improvements at Anthology compared to his last facility. Throughout 2020, his dad was alone for extended periods of time, only able to see visitors through his apartment window in the cold winter months. 

“The emotional side of that is severe,” says Gareld. “You can see all kinds of issues, mental health-wise, from being isolated for so long.”

But Gareld says he’s seen such an improvement in his father. He says his dad has never lived more than 3 miles from where he was born in Nebraska, and Gareld was really worried about moving him away from there to Kansas City. But within months of living at Anthology, his health has improved so much that he even had his organ moved back into his room so he can play music from the comfort of his own home.

“Just the ability to be able to have eyes onto those situations means so much,” says Gareld, who now lives just a 10-minute drive from his dad. “[I have the] chance to see him every day, which I haven’t been able to do in almost 50 years.” Gareld visits his father almost daily now.

Jennifer Leonard, the director of sales and marketing for Anthology, was really warmed by Duane’s progress. 

“​​This story has just meant so much,” says Jennifer. “Hearing the things they were saying — in their words, telling us — and to see him, knowing he’s never lived anywhere else, and he was so weak. To see the gains he’s made, it was probably one of the most successful stories.”

Jennifer knows that the pandemic has been hard on everyone, but especially hard on senior citizens and residents of assisted living facilities and nursing homes. With senior citizens in the age group that was the highest risk for COVID-19, many places shut down completely, not allowing family members inside, or even allowing residents to eat and spend time together. 

“Anthology’s mentality is to not shut down or lockdown,” says Jennifer. “If we’re testing negative, we’re opening the doors. We know what it’s like to be isolated and separated from your families.”

Anthology residents Bob and Sherry Padley also found a great community at the residential facility throughout the pandemic. Thankfully, the two always had each other, even in the darkest days of lockdown, so they were never completely isolated. But they’ve also made great relationships there. The two enjoy trivia nights and Sherry enjoys crafting with other residents, like making mats out of plastic bags for the local homeless population. 

Sherry says selling their home two years ago was one of the hardest things they’ve ever done — the house had stairs that would’ve made living there difficult after Bob suffered a stroke — but they’re thankful they found a place where they’re comfortable.

​​”You always like to be in your home, and this is a change that’s turned out to be good,” says Bob.

Sherry agrees. 

“I think we lucked out pretty good,” says Sherry. “This is a good place.”

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