Yoni Aaron, ’03
CEO, Citadel Healthcare
We took a very proactive approach with our nursing facilities even before COVID started to make its mark in any nursing home. Prior to all the mandates from the state and federal levels, we started buying PPE (personal protective equipment) in droves to ensure we kept our residents safe. By doing that early, we were able to quickly come up with new activities to keep our residents entertained, but most importantly, still be able to connect with their loved ones, all while staying safe. We purchased many iPads to ensure our residents could Facetime with their friends and families. We made makeshift ice cream trucks out of med carts, outfitted with music and all, and “drove” through the facilities to provide ice cream to everyone. We had dance parties (socially distanced of course), karaoke contests, makeshift park walks, played BINGO and other interactive games over the loudspeakers, had hallway exercise classes, window visits with animals and loads of other great activities. We were also one of the very first facilities in Illinois to roll out outdoor visitation. It was so incredible to be able to reconnect our residents with their loved ones.
We are still in the height of the pandemic as I am writing this, so we are far from the finish line. There are so many different facets of this pandemic that we have had to manage. We are dealing with the country’s most vulnerable population and we have and continue to do everything we can to protect them. The guidelines from the CDC, IDPH and local governments change what seems like every hour, so we have to ensure we are constantly staying on top latest developments. I also take pride in being at the forefront of this virus. We opened up a dedicated COVID unit at some of our facilities in order to care for those who desperately needed us. I was also part of Mayor Lightfoot’s task force on reopening the City of Chicago which allowed me to collaborate with healthcare leaders from other industries to see this from other perspectives. The answer to what made me keep going is simple…my staff and my residents. We are in this business to care for people and if there was ever a time to answer the call of duty, that time is now. We are doing whatever it takes to protect them. I cannot even begin to tell you the blood, sweat and tears that have been put in over the past 7 months, and the fight is not over yet. The silver lining for me is watching our incredible team come together and really step up. I have always thought we had the best team in the industry, this was proven to me throughout this pandemic. I cannot thank my amazing staff enough, they are the true heroes here. I also want to acknowledge another ICJA family member, my partner Ken Ripstein, it has been a pleasure having him there next to me in this unprecedented fight against COVID-19.