All over the world, we’re seeing a mind-boggling number of people lining up to receive the COVID vaccine. And here in Bellingham, Solstice Senior Living is home to a community of people in great need of the protection it offers. While all of this might feel overwhelming at first, Solstice is happy to share some good news.

“We appreciate our life-saving vaccine. The whole process was very smooth and well organized. Now I’m going shopping,” says Solstice resident Bess H. Photo courtesy Solstice Senior Living

“Ninety-eight percent of our residents and staff were vaccinated,” says Director of Sales and Marketing Randi Axelsson. “Our residents feel so fortunate that we were proactive and got them the vaccines, especially with them hearing about how many people are still trying to figure out how to do it. We’re grateful we were able to get them the vaccine without any issues.”

While the nationwide vaccination rollout has met with some problems, Solstice was fortunate to have capable friends to give them some assistance. “In all the confusion, Solstice partnered with Hoagland Pharmacy, who came to the rescue,” says Executive Director Larry MacDonald. “It was brought up to one of our directors during a phone call with her counterpart at the pharmacy, and all moved quickly from there.”

With the vaccines in the hands of the pharmacy, and the residents of the Solstice community ready to receive the medication, there was just one more piece of the puzzle to put in place. 

“We offer independent living, so we don’t have nurses on staff,” says MacDonald. “Hoagland partnered with the nursing program at Bellingham Technical College, and they had enough staff available, both trained nurses and up-and-coming nurses. They did a great job.”

Solstice resident Ted was so eager to get his second vaccine that he didn’t mind showing a little skin for the cause. Photo courtesy Solstice Senior Living

With the vaccine secured and properly trained health care providers in place, the final step was to transform a space into a temporary medical site. “We turned our dining room into a vaccination clinic for the day, and it went very smoothly. We had residents come down wing by wing, and floor by floor. We had all their caregivers come through with them, so they would get the vaccination at the same time,” says MacDonald. “We supplied juice and cookies, just like when you give blood, to keep the energy levels up after the vaccination. We observed everyone for 15 to 30 minutes, and then let them return to their apartments.”

Solstice is happy to report that nearly every member of their community was involved, and they saw no negative reactions after the process was complete. “We had one person decline for a religious reason, and then we have a couple of residents who are well past 100 years of age, and the families wanted to save the vaccines for younger residents,” says Axelsson. “It went really well with the first shot, and none of the residents had any reaction. And with the second shot, we only saw a mild reaction in about eight of our residents.”

Staff member Randi Axelsson was happy to be involved in the vaccination program, and even happier to see it go off without a hitch. Photo courtesy Solstice Senior Living

With this successful endeavor now behind him, MacDonald is wasting no time looking toward the future. “Although we’re all vaccinated, it’s only going to change our lives a little bit. We still can’t allow visitors into the community right now, and are still following CDC, state, federal and our corporate guidelines,” says MacDonald. “We’re still doing things in baby steps, very cautiously, because we don’t really know 100 percent what this vaccination means. We’re being told that we’re covered 14 days after receiving it, but we’ve got to walk very slowly through this new world.”

Working with this demographic and bringing the vaccine into his community has given MacDonald a new way to look at life. “A few years ago, 80 or 90 was really old to me, and now I see that it’s not. I mean, if somebody passes away in their 80s, I think they had another 10 to 15 years left. And you know what 10 or 15 years of your life can mean,” MacDonald says. “It’s pretty amazing being in this industry, and sharing lives and stories with these people.”

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