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Madison nursing home helps residents celebrate life milestones

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Peg Williams
Peg Williams celebrates her 100th birthday.

MADISON (WKOW) -- Even as the pandemic keeps nursing homes from allowing normal visits from family members, staff at St. Mary's Care Center are working to help residents mark big life events.

"Practically a whole year has gone by at this point," social worker Cassi Wieser said. "We've had births of great grandchildren. We've had these really big birthdays. We've had weddings and everything that would happen in normal life over the course of a year."

Wieser and other staff members have gotten creative to ensure those moments aren't missed.

On November 11, Peg Williams turned 100, and Wieser helped put together a birthday celebration.

"It certainly wasn't what she expected when she was thinking about her hundredth birthday, but I have to say she felt so celebrated," Peg's daughter Patti said.

Patti was able to visit her mother in person, though they sat on opposite sides of a plastic sheet.

"It was just wonderful to be able to se her and be able to be there for her day," she said. "I think she really appreciated how everybody, given everything that's going on, could kind of set that aside and just be able to celebrate her for a day."

In addition to seeing Patti, Peg had two Zoom calls with the rest of her family. One was for her children and grandchildren, and the other was for her sister.

"Peg was just so happy that day," Wieser said. "She just lit up."

Williams wasn't the only resident who got to mark a milestone with a special celebration.

Judith Lerdahl couldn't go to her grandson's wedding this summer, so the newlyweds came to her.

Jim and Megan Lerdahl visited her earlier this month while wearing the same clothes they wore on their wedding day.

"You could definitely see her eyes light up sometimes and in her reactions that, even if she couldn't quite place who we were, she was really excited for us," Jim said.

None of Judith's family members have been able to visit her in-person since the start of the pandemic, so Megan said their visit was even more special.

"It was really neat to see that because it was important to us it really spread joy throughout our entire family," she said.

The visit happened outside, and everyone wore masks.

Jim said it was an emotional experience because he is very close with his grandmother.

"I was nervous about how emotional it might be ahead of time, and I definitely felt that way afterwards," he said. "But in the moment, even though she has Alzheimer's and she's not quite who she was, her personality still came out enough in our interactions and it was still a fun time together."

Wieser said celebrating these milestones is important because of the extraordinary toll the pandemic is taking on people who live in nursing homes.

"COVID is difficult for everybody, but for our residents, they don't have the opportunity to go home and be with loved ones," she said. "The older you get, the more important your family is, and so making sure that we can still have a connection, whether it's phone calls, or Zooms or window visits, [or] these in person visits with the screen up, it means so much more to the residents then than anybody else."

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Caroline Dade

Reporter/Multimedia Journalist, 27 News

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