Residents of of the Brentwood Center for Health & Rehabilitation in Yarmouth enjoyed a drive-by parade of family and friends last week. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

YARMOUTH — Stanley Williams sat outdoors, sporting a festive red bucket hat and a face covering, holding a sign that read “Stay Safe / Stay Healthy” as he and other residents of the Brentwood Center for Health & Rehabilitation waited for the motorcade of family and friends to arrive.

The three months since the coronavirus pandemic started to spread throughout Maine has felt like three years, said the former Topsham man, who has lived at Brentwood since 2018 and is vice-president of its Resident’s Council. To keep residents and staff safe, the 78-bed nursing and long-term care facility has not allowed visitors into the building since March.

But on a sunny morning last week, a parade of round 20 vehicles, decorated with colorful well-wishing signs, drove slowly through Brentwood’s roundabout parking lot, their drivers and occupants honking horns, waving,, and calling out best wishes to the throngs of wheelchair-bound residents.

Stanley Williams, at left, was among those who hadn’t seen many of their loved ones in person since the coronavirus pandemic began. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

Williams, whose wrecker service’s tow truck was recently in an accident, beamed as he saw the newly-repaired vehicle guide the lineup of vehicles. He exchanged vigorous waves with his son and brother, and the sight of two antique autos in the lineup was enough to raise him to his feet.

“That was awesome,” he said. “I got to see my wrecker again; I got to see my family and everybody’s family. … You just miss them.”

Brentwood is “our home,” Williams added. “It’s nice to see the residents have visitors.”

Since Williams’ daughter works in Brentwood’s kitchen, he has at least been able to see her, but he had missed face-to-face chats with the rest of his family. He lamented those residents who have not been able to see family at all.

“There are lot of them, I’m sorry to say, that have very seldom seen their families, even before the virus,” Williams said.

Todd Beaulieu, Brentwood’s administrator, said the past three months have “been a very challenging time for them.” Still, “when this crisis happened, we knew and understood how important it is to make sure those connections still happen.”

Residents have been able to communicate through online video chats, and warmer weather has allowed them to sit outside with a loved one, albeit behind a protective window. Beaulieu called the residents “troopers” as they’ve weathered this ordeal.

Williams said the news he’s heard on TV about the pandemic, and shifting guidelines and recommendations, can be alarming. Residents have made use of an informational hotline and Telehealth virtual medical services, and Beaulieu said staff has kept residents apprised of Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, and worked to answer their questions.

Williams praised the administration, nurses and residents for “all giving quite a bit of their heart to keep this place from having any medical problems.”

Fortunately, Brentwood has had no positive COVID-19 cases, Beaulieu said. But he acknowledged the mental health impacts that can stem from greater isolation, something Brentwood has tried to address through more fun outdoor activities, like squirt gun fights.

Linda Levine beams after seeing her husband Elliot, a resident at Brentwood, for the first time in three months. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

“We’ve got to all be aware that this does have an impact on anybody,” staff included, Beaulieu said. Protecting oneself in a high-risk environment is paramount both at work and when leaving to return to one’s family, he noted.

Residents and staff alike wore face coverings even when outdoors for the parade. It is a form of mutual protection that Beaulieu wishes he saw more in the overall community.

“It’s a way of life that’s going to have to change for a while,” said Williams, whose sign also read, “Save lives / please wear masks.”

Linda Levine, whose husband Elliot has dementia and Parkinson’s disease and has spent nearly two years at Brentwood, was understandably emotional as she drove away from the facility, elated that he had recognized her.

“I drove in from Saco, shaking, adrenaline; I haven’t really seen him in the flesh since March,” Levine said. While Elliot’s focus tends to waver when they chat online via FaceTime, “today he was staring right at me,” she said, eyes twinkling.

“Oh God, I’m gonna bust,” Levine said as her voice broke. “It’s wonderful. I am just so thrilled that (Brentwood) set this up.”

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