Business: Meet the Bellettini Senior Living Community in Bellevue, WA

Interviewer: Emily Feng; June 6, 2020

Interviewee: James Carn, Director of Resident Enrichment @ the Bellettini

The Bellettini Senior Living Community in Bellevue, WA (The Bellettini).

Could you tell us about yourself and your occupation? How does your occupation impact the local community?

My name is James Carn, and I’m the Director of Resident Enrichment in the Bellettini, a senior living community in Bellevue, WA. We have around 120+ residents, so I’m responsible for taking care of a pretty large group. Resident enrichment involves doing anything we can to make their lives better, including booking speakers, entertainers, bands, and hosting educational meetings. Outside of that, I help coordinate special outreach.

The Bellettini impacts the local community by doing a lot of charity events. We have an idea here of doing “The Good Work,” which manifests in giving back to the community through donations. People here love to get out and do outreach, which I think is super important.

How has COVID-19 affected seniors who are staying in your residential facility?

COVID-19 has definitely had a huge impact on the seniors living here. Basically, all of the communities in the Seattle area have been on a lockdown quarantine, which means anyone who leaves for 14 days has to have a negative test. For the older demographic, who are considered high-risk, they have to stay in their rooms almost all the time. This means less physical exercise, more separation, and less connectivity with other people. That ultimately makes them feel cut off, also and can even induce depression and anxiety for some folks.

"That ultimately makes them feel cut off, also and can even induce depression and anxiety for some folks."

Fortunately, we have technologies like Zoom to help them through this time. Yet, while some of them are technologically capable, others are still learning the controls of Zoom or unsure of how to Facetime a family member. A large part of what we've been trying to do is educate people and coordinate with the family to make communication easier.

We also sit down with the residents and talk through their concerns to make them more comfortable. We understand that flexibility and listening are two very important values during this period.

The seniors participate in enrichment activities (The Bellettini).

Outside of these things, how has COVID-19 affected the residential facility and its internal processes?

We've all had to change our processes indefinitely. From a sales standpoint, we’re no longer allowed to bring anyone into the community, so people have been attending virtual tours and looking at photo collections. As for dining, we've had to go from people eating in the restaurant to having to bring that up to their rooms. Furthermore, less residents are calling down to request assistance rather than coming down. That sometimes leads to phone tie-ups, but we’re ultimately managing well.

If you are willing to share, how has COVID-19 affected you individually and/or your family?

Absolutely! I am clearly less affected than everyone out there. Of course, the pandemic has changed my job and I’ve had to reroute resources, but other than staying in, it hasn't impacted me very deeply. So many families know a loved one who is hospitalized or otherwise affected, but I’m very fortunate to say I haven’t experienced that.

Assistance and community is crucial (The Bellettini).

What do you believe others can do to help ease problems encountered by your organization?

The first thing I would say is just to stay informed. You have to be in the loop with the right information or you can risk yourself and others. When the pandemic started, there was a lot of disagreement over masks or no masks. Yet, once hospitals could keep up with demand, they then introduced masks’ effectiveness to the rest of us. Changes like these should reflect in which procedures we take to keep safe.

"You have to be in the loop with the right information or you can risk yourself and others."

The CDC website is a great resource, and it can tell you how to react to something in your area. If you can, donating goods, masks, water to organizations can be a great way to help out. At the Bellettini, we just held a can drive for Northwest Harvest, where 20-30 canned goods were donated. We as a community are taking action to help those who are more impacted. Internally, we will remain careful rather than throwing caution to the wind.

What is the greatest lesson we can learn from this outbreak?

I would say the greatest lesson we can gain is that we all a connected people. We are all in this together, even if affects some people more disproportionately. Taking the time to put your ego aside and being willing to help people is so important. People who aren't wearing their masks are putting people in danger, and I think if we all chipped in, we could get through this sooner.

Are there any other comments you would like to share or lessons you’d like to emphasize?

I would emphasize that it is really important to reach out to seniors that are locked up. If you know a relative that’s trying to keep safe, please try to talk with them. It is imperative to people's health that they do feel heard.