‘Happy’ times at O’Brien Court

Residential facility reveling in return to what is fondly remembered as ‘normal’

By Per Peterson

Cindy Swenhaugen

You might not be able to tell it by looking at her because she usually still has to have a mask on, but Cindy Swenhaugen is one happy woman these days.

Swenhaugen, the lead office coordinator at O’Brien Court, is all smiles these days after the governor lifted mask requirements for those who are vaccinated. That means visitors are once again walking the halls at O’Brien Court for the first time in more than a year.

“It’s happy again,” Swenhaugen said last week. “Before we could sit two at a table, now we can do four at a table. And they’re visiting, and they’re staying around longer to visit. It’s getting back to normal.”

Swenhaugen has noticed a distinct difference in the mood at O’Brien, as well as the uptick in traffic inside — both coming from residents and their families.

“Before, when they wore their masks, I didn’t see any people going out hardly,” she said. “Now it’s like, ‘We can go out, and our family can come!’ Now they can go out and they’re not afraid. We didn’t see a kid for a year. They would come outside, do window visits, but that was it. That’s tough on everyone.”

Swenhaugen said living under the COVID cloud has been tough, for the staff and residents.

“The ones with memory loss, they didn’t remember to put them on,” she said. “But now that they’ve had their vaccines, I don’t worry about that anymore.”

A large amount of the socialization was also lost during the last year, Swenhaugen said. Many residents would return to their rooms right after eating, and Swenhaugen also brought meals to residents’ rooms as a way to do some socializing. Also, things as simple as playing games or cards, or working on puzzles were taken away in 2020.

“Bingo’s a big one — we were doing bingo in the hall, but that didn’t work too well,” said Swenhaugen. “I rented out bingo cards and took them to their rooms and every day I’d stick five or six numbers in their doors, and if they got a bingo they could come down to me. That’s how we played bingo.”

Swenhaugen said they started a new activity during the pandemic that they called “Fireside Chat.”

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.