Chelsea Place resident visits with his family through a window

The outbreak of COVID-19 didn’t stop Ken Pelot’s family from giving him kisses through a window when they visited him at Chelsea Place memory care. They couldn’t open the window, although Ken wanted to, but they could talk over a phone and see each other’s faces.

It was the first time Ken had seen his family in nine days.

“I’ve been FaceTiming with Ken, but to see him there was just so special,” his wife Joanie said. “It doesn’t take the place of hugging him or holding his hand. It takes a village.”

Chelsea Place is closed to visitors due to concerns over COVID-19. FaceTime and Zoom can only do so much for residents like Ken, 79, who are used to seeing their families every day. Ken’s interrupted routine was mended when Jenni Dill, the Life Management Director at Chelsea Place, invited his family to come for a window visit.

Two of Ken and Joanie’s four children visited him on Sunday along with some of their seven grandchildren. Joanie visits her husband daily at lunch, and they go for walks or color in his room. A son goes every other day to play cards at Chelsea Place, and their daughters visit every day after school.

“We’ve been married 56 years, almost 57. He’s used to all of us being there,” Joanie said.

Ken knows about the virus and that it could keep the family apart for weeks. The family is doing all it can to let Ken know they haven’t forgotten him, Joanie said.

Sunday’s visit included some rowdy fun. A granchild hurled a snowball at his grandmother, Joanie. She was shocked, but Ken loved it, she said.

“My husband says, ‘I saw that coming, but I didn’t wanna tell you,’” Joanie said.

Joanie returned fire, and a full-on snowball fight was launched.

The sweetest moment, though, came when Ken insisted on giving his wife a kiss through the window, Dill said. Joanie was shy at first, but Ken said it didn’t feel any different than a normal visit with his family, even though it was through a window.

“It felt great just seeing them,” he said.

Life has changed at Chelsea Place, just like life everywhere has changed thanks to the novel coronavirus, but the residents are no strangers to difficult times, Dill said.

“They’ve survived stuff that they never thought they would,” Dill said, recalling a woman who survived the polio epidemic and a man who served in Vietnam. “They are the key to getting us through this.”

The residents are also still able to get out on bus tours. They have been painting rocks which they will leave in public places like parks for people to see. They also have plenty of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, Dill said.

Dill hopes that she can do something for other families like she did for the Pelots, and Joanie said she’s sure her family will be able to visit again if they ask. It’s a matter of taking things a day at a time to get through these hard times, Joanie said.

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“It’s tough, everybody’s just doing their best,” she said. “It’s truly one day at a time. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.”

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