With glasses of wine in hand, residents of one assisted living facility in Lafayette watched a parade of vehicles roll by their courtyard.

Gloria Cheramie, 72, was among them. She had found out moments before the Tuesday afternoon parade that her daughter would be in one of the vehicles.

"It was just really, really neat," Cheramie said. "This is one of the things that will help us to get through this. And, you know, we're all going to get through it. One way or another, we're going to get through it."

More than a dozen vehicles rolled by Avanti Senior Living during the parade. Some displayed homemade signs, and others brought along babies and pets.

It wasn't just the residents who were surprised. Parade participants were invited to visit, from a safe distance, with their loved ones afterward.

"It was huge," said Cheramie's daughter, Nicole Lobello. "When I showed up there with my son, her face just lit up. And then we actually got to stand there for over an hour and just talk, which was huge. It was huge. Huge. That was my surprise."

The courtyard gathering is just one of many creative ways people are connecting with loved ones during the coronavirus pandemic.

Residents of many nursing and assisted living facilities are also embracing video conversations now that in-person visitation is banned to slow the spread of COVID-19 to those most at risk of the effects.

It's not the same as physically hugging or seeing someone in person, said Kobe East, whose 87-year-old father lives at Magnolia Estates in Lafayette. But it helps.

What's been equally important, East said, are the reminders residents are getting about the visitation restrictions in place.

"Even in his latter stages of dementia, he's very aware of the situation," East said. "The staff of the nursing home is doing a good job of reminding them daily why people aren't coming in, why they aren't getting any visitors. And that's a good thing. It's depressing, but it makes me feel better that he at least understands."

Creative visitations aren't just happening with those living in group settings.

The stay-at-home mandate is also inspiring people to connect with aging loved ones in different ways.

"People are organizing window walks in their neighborhoods where people stop by senior citizens' homes where they can just wave through the window," said Julie Isenberg, owner of Right at Home, an in-home care company, in Lafayette. "Another thing we're seeing is people creating care packages with comfort foods that fit within their dietary guidelines, vitamin C, paper products and things like that."

The coronavirus crisis has inspired many to try something new — whether that's making a video phone call or writing a letter by hand — to connect.

"Every one of us can learn from something like this," Cheramie said. "We all are learning about living on our own and just doing what we need to do, you know? We're all just doing what we have to do to live each day."


Email Megan Wyatt at mwyatt@theadvocate.com.