A community united: The administrative response

Residents elaborate on the role of the administration and staff in guiding Kendal at Oberlin through the pandemic. Overall, interviewees give credit to Kendal's leadership for navigating the ever-changing demands of the virus and Kendal's residents.

Mandatory Covid Testing Reminder

Signs like this appeared all over Kendal's Care Center throughout the pandemic. Every member of Kendal's staff underwent biweekly Covid-19 testing. Weekly testing was ongoing as of spring 2023. 

Kendal's nurses and other caregiving staff went above and beyond:

Nurses saw their jobs and lives upended: "This last year really because of staff shortages, so to see your skilled nurses delivering meals on trays, cleaning off dishes for people, let alone the 10 thousand other things they have to do, medically important things they have to do to sustain people here. I mean the level of caring and giving, the very clear support and determinations given by the top staff to other staff saying you will get tested every week if you don’t get the vaccination…every time you have to be home for two weeks. I mean there was such care given and it was hard. Some people left, staff left due to their opinion of not wanting to be vaccinated or just because their world has changed too right? Their kids are home and their husbands are working. I mean whatever, I mean everybody’s lives have been so upended." - Judi Bachrach

Kendal's strong leadership relied on constant and clear communication with residents:

"Calm preparedness" through communication: "Everybody got the same message. Everybody was listened to. And every complaint, every disagreement, every new way of looking at things, and there were plenty of doctors who had their own evaluations of things. I mean I have to say Stacy’s mantra was “calm preparedness,” and I have to say that’s what they did. As calm as they could be. So I think Kendal did a pretty great job." - Judi Bachrach

The administration showed a united front: “I really don’t know how they did it but it, with Barbara Thomas and Stacey Terell, Michele Tarsitano, and the nursing staff, if ever they had disagreements it was not obvious. They were such a cohesive unit, the administration here, and that certainly built confidence. I was so confident that we were being taken care of better than we would have been any place else. Really, that doesn’t sound possible, but that is really the way I feel.” - Mary Simons

Communication was a necessary form of education: "To people who were very vocal and very angry and very upset and needing their particular circumstances addressed and explaining why they could or couldn’t or how they could or couldn’t address what they needed. And then the slow educational process of filtering all of that information out there in a way that was rounded, realistic, comprehensible, whether everybody actually read all 15 points in our bulletins." - Judi Bachrach

Interviewees directed both compliments and criticism toward Kendal's CEO Barbara Thomas, indicating the close relationship between residents and top staff:

Working day and night to keep up with changing regulations: "I thought Barbara Thomas and others knocked themselves out day and night dealing with so much that had to change like that (snaps fingers). You know there were so many things they had to conform to in terms of federal and state and county health requirements. And all the new logistics." - Former Oberlin Resident

Measuring Kendal's success: "The overall emphasis that she had that she’s still this way–she Barbara person in charge, CEO, is 'look how well we’re doing.' It was so positive all the time. But you know we knew that wasn’t really true and her whole concern and I can see why was to make sure that nobody in the Kendal independent living or in the care center got sick. And that’s all she talked about. We have not had anybody get sick. And, okay, is that the only criterion we’re going to look at?" - Dianne Haley

Prioritizing Kendal's status as a top long-term care facility: "Barbara is a very prideful person–I hope she’s CEO as long as I’m living–because I think she’s spectacular, but also I think she has a very strong feeling about how good this Kendal is, and she wanted it to be a flagship, you know what a flagship is? You know, top of the heap. And then, of course, we had our first Covid case." - Janet Kelsey Werner

Barbara Thomas's ability to say no: "And Barbara Thomas was really very good at this. She does two things, which I think are pretty remarkable. She knows how to say no. She does it easily and quickly. But she will always listen, and she can be persuaded." - Larry Mirel

Interviewees oscillated between indignance and respect for the administration's handling of the pandemic:

Either crazy successful or just crazy: "There’s a variety of attitudes and the administration has to cope with them all, you know? They have to please everybody which is very hard to do. And I thought, especially in retrospect I thought they did a remarkable job at the time some of the rules just seemed crazy, you know?" - Larry Mirel

Frustrated and grateful: "I chafed at some of the rules and regulations. But I’ve also been thankful for some of the rules and regulations." - Janet Kelsey Werner

Success in terms of safety: “So, you know, there’s two sides to the coin, and they did their side of the coin very well, as far as people not getting sick and dying. So I give them all the credit for that, I’m very grateful for that. But I thought it was overkill.” - Dan Reiber