The ripple effect of the COVID-19 pandemic continues across the Sandhills as life plan and continuing care retirement communities are coping with protecting both their residents and employees. Those living and working in the eight memory care facilities within Moore County became of special interest to Neuropsychologist Karen D. Sullivan, owner of Pinehurst Neuropsychology Brain & Memory Clinic.
“These last few months have been hard on everyone, but my heart breaks for the residents and staff in memory care,” Sullivan says. “We all know these facilities have been disproportionally hit by the virus, but there is also another epidemic happening inside these facilities, and that is one of social isolation. Even prior to the virus, these residents live with isolation, but now COVID-19 has literally cut these residents off from the world. Most haven’t seen family in months and rely completely on the staff for connection and comfort, which adds another level of intensity to an already demanding job.”
Before the pandemic, volunteers made a habit of stopping by to lead sing-alongs or make a friendly visit to these memory care communities but have been unable to make the trip since March.
Knowing the impact of volunteers and visitors and their absence now, Sullivan tried to think of a way to make a difference that would brighten the lives of these devoted caregivers in these specialty communities while adhering to the safety guidelines now in place. She decided to approach her mother, Diane Flanegan, a social worker and stained-glass artist, about a collaboration.
“As a social worker, I was also worried about the impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable in our community,” Flanegan says. “When my daughter suggested this project, I was thrilled as it combines my two favorite things: helping people and art.”
Together, the mother-daughter pair designed a yellow, fused-glass star. Utilizing her artistry, Flanegan created more than 100 of these unique stars for delivery to the memory care teams at Accordius Health at Aberdeen, Brookdale Pinehurst, Elmcroft of Southern Pines, Fox Hollow Senior Living Community, Penick Village, Seven Lakes Assisted Living & Memory Care, St. Joseph of the Pines and Tara Plantation of Carthage.
“We decided on a yellow star to represent the lifeforce these very important people always bring into their memory care communities but especially now with the quarantine,” Sullivan says. “For months now, the only social connection our memory care residents have had are these dedicated staff members, and they are the sun, moon and stars to their residents.”
This month, Sullivan and her Pinehurst Neuropsychology team are distributing the handcrafted glass stars to these eight local communities.“It takes a special person to work in memory care,” Sullivan says, “and we want them to know they are appreciated.”