Among the things Gloria Allen misses about St. Ann Adult Day Services are chair exercises to good music and creative arts-and-crafts projects, like a pretty bag she once decorated to use when shopping.

The 76-year-old lives at Caritas House, directly next door to St. Ann. Five times a week before COVID-19 struck in March 2020, a staff member from St. Ann would come over to Caritas to pick up Allen and any other residents of her floor attending that day.

The pandemic forced a sudden pause in in-person services, and while Allen found new ways to fill her days, she’s looking forward to going back.

“I miss it,” she said. “It was nice.”

She may not have to wait much longer, said Cherie Melton, director of St. Ann. The program has started planning for a hybrid model that will provide some in-person services and an expansion of the virtual activities that began during the pandemic.

“We are excited about the center’s reopening in the very near future and are planning a celebration to welcome back our participants,” she said.

A hybrid model at an important time

The program has not yet set a specific date to reopen, but the hybrid model will allow for in-person services, such as transportation, meals, structured activities and preventative-health and social-work supports, to those who are fully vaccinated and cleared through a head-to-toe assessment by the center’s nurse. Melton estimated 51 percent of participants have been fully vaccinated.

In addition, to accommodate those who don’t come back in person, St. Ann plans to expand online services. In September, the program began offering activities, including exercise, Bible study, short stories, trivia and music, by Zoom or phone. Under the hybrid model, these will grow to include additional options, such as Bingo, arts and crafts, and cooking classes.

Typically, St. Ann is a “hug, touch, feel type program,” Melton said, and staff will miss physical connections with participants. But the hybrid model offers a way to meet their needs at an important time.

“We know that many of our participants have declined over the past year,” she said. “We lost a portion to hospice and nursing homes, and unfortunately, some have passed.”

A break for caregivers  

Adult day services also offer a badly needed break for caregivers who have had little respite during the pandemic.

Linda J. said the two days a week her friend Lawonne W. attended St. Ann in person were “two days I didn’t have to monitor her.” Those were the days that Linda tended to book her own medical appointments, take long walks or pick up books at the library.

The women have been friends for more than 40 years, meeting as nursing students at Coppin State University. They and another friend from Coppin became widows young, before they were 60, and have spent much of their time together in recent years. Lawonne, who had suffered a stroke, moved in with Linda six years ago.

A retired nurse, Linda said she understands Lawonne’s holistic needs and clearly recognizes the importance of her of spending time with others.

“Anybody, not just her, needs socialization,” she explained.

They will wait to see how St. Ann’s planning evolves – transportation and cost are both concerns – but expect Lawonne will return when the center reopens, giving Linda back the days when she says she can do “whatever I want!”