High Desert Haven takes care to make a happy holiday

High Desert Haven takes care to make a happy holidayBy LAURA QUEZADA

News Review Staff Writer

High Desert Haven (HDH), Ridgecrest’s assisted living and memory care facility, takes great care to provide their residents with a safe, happy holiday. On December 18 they provided a feast with all of the holiday trimmings and will do so again on December 25. Day in and day out the staff provide care for our most fragile citizens.

Carolers from the Salvation Army and local groups have been welcome visitors. Many townsfolk have dropped off gifts and cards. The halls and dining rooms are festively decorated lending cheer to the environment.

Mary Hughes, Marketing Director, recently joined the staff primarily due to the care she saw given a family member. She had been trying to care for them herself but it proved unsustainable. Upon visiting HDH she noticed how clean it was, how clean it smelled, and how kind, respectful and knowledgeable the caregivers were. She knew she wanted to advocate for the facility. She says, “With all these uncertainties, I was very impressed at how they handle the COVID. It’s a lot of work, but they did it.”

Carolyn Storruste, Residential Care Manager, has been with HDH for about 11 years. She says of the pandemic, “In my heart it has been very hard. It was very hard for the first year because everybody, including employees, walked in fear because we didn’t know what COVID was. Are they going to die? Are they going to live? It was the fear of the unknown, it shook everyone to the core.” It became Carolyn’s responsibility to keep up with all of the regulations. “They constantly were changing on us,” she says.

“We upped our cleaning; the caregivers, office and activities staff all had to clean. They clean and disinfect every surface every day, every shift. We did that for a year. And we still do it.”

Expenses rose with the increased regulations. Trash cans had to be brought up to the new code, every can had to have its own lid. Every resident needed their own soap, paper towels and tissue. Staff needed to be trained on wearing PPE and isolation. “By then we had been locked down and couldn’t bring really bring anyone in to train. So we were relying on reading, watching videos and learning as much as we could. So if we got COVID, then we would be prepared.”

And COVID did enter HDH briefly last December. Storruste says, “We got rid of it very quickly. We got it in and got it out and we did a good job. It didn’t spread.” The staff put up isolation barriers to the sick room which was set up with isolation trash cans and laundry bins. Food was left on a tray outside the door and one staff person was responsible for wearing PPE, delivering food and medicines, and removing their PPE when exiting.”

Hughes and Storruste feel great compassion for the residents. “A lot of people just were so lonely from being cut off from their families and not being able to see their families. It was just the most horrible thing. It so deeply affected a lot of people.”

Prior to the pandemic family members were invited to the sumptuous holiday feasts. That has changed; however, you can still visit your loved ones at HDH. Proof of vaccination is required to visit in their rooms in the assisted living facility. The unvaccinated can visit outside if they have a clear 72-hour COVID test. Masks are worn while in the community areas. Memory care has stricter limits, but residents can visit in the lobby. Visitor temperatures are checked prior to entering either facility.

“We want to thank the whole community of Ridgecrest and Kern County for keeping the faith with everybody here at High Desert Haven,” says Hughes. “We’re always here if you have any questions about your loved ones; we’re happy to answer. We’re very grateful for the entire community for putting the trust in all the staff to care for all your loved ones.” She adds, “Executive Director, Abraham Mathew and all the staff wish you Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.”

Laura Austin Photo: Carolyn Storruste, Residential Care Manager, and Mary Hughes, Marketing Director, work together to ensure quality care to High Desert Haven residents.

Story First Published: 2021-12-24