It’s been nearly four months since nursing homes across the country closed their doors to visitors in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Residents at a Virginia skilled nursing facility got an opportunity to connect with their families and friends in person in celebration of Father’s Day. 

“They were just so excited when they saw their loved ones for the first time. Just the smiles on their faces said everything,” Stephanie Landes, director of marketing for the Friendship Health & Rehab Center North in Roanoke, VA, told McKnight’s. 

The 253-bed skilled nursing facility held a “Family Car & Hot Rod Parade” in honor of the holiday last month. Visitors draped their cars with signs and toured around the center’s campus, honking their horns and waving at residents, all while practicing social distancing guidelines. The facility held a similar event on Mother’s Day. 

“There were a lot of ‘oohs and aahs’ and blowing kisses and waving to everybody. It was a great moment,” Landes said.  

The facility has set up virtual opportunities that allow residents to connect with family members and friends, but “nothing compares to [seeing] people in person,” according to Landes. Staff members worked to find several fun and safe ways for residents to connect with family members and friends from a safe distance amid the pandemic — hence the parade. 

“Our residents are a little stir crazy understandably, and our family members are missing their loved ones as friends,” Landes said. 

She added that a silver lining from the pandemic, however, has been seeing residents develop more independence and connect with others. 

“Just seeing some of those relationships flourish and blossom friendship-wise between them has been just reassuring,” Landes said. 

She noted that other providers looking to hold similar events said it requires clear communication from the facility and expectations of visitors, such as requiring masks, ensuring people stay in their cars and follow social distancing guidance.  

“It was really well received and was really heartwarming to see that connection being made between people again,” she said.