Dear Search Team, Family Members, Guardians, and Stakeholders:

As you are no doubt aware, this Thursday, Governor Pritzker extended his Illinois stay at home order for another thirty days.

In these challenging and rapidly changing times, we have taken every effort to be transparent about Search’s response. To minimize the stress we are collectively feeling, we want everyone in our Search Community to know what is happening and how they might be impacted. We are truly all in this together and are dependent on each other for support as we navigate this tumultuous period. That is why we are committed to providing all of our stakeholders with honest, straightforward, and candid information, even when it’s hard to deliver.

Agency-Wide Updates

This week has been tough, and there is no way around stating this. Another home has been impacted by COVID-19, and we have had new positive cases amongst our residents and staff members. In addition, we have all had to absorb the hardest of all news - the sudden loss of a beloved member of our Search Family.  

It is with deep sadness that I inform you that on Wednesday, April 21, an individual who had been with Search for the last 23 years passed away. She was 61.  She touched so many lives with her sense of humor and mischievous spirit. Our hearts are broken for her family, friends and especially her housemates and support team. Everyone is devastated by this loss.

We cannot determine definitively if her death was COVID-19 related. On April 21, another individual in the same home tested positive for COVID-19. Although this home converted to a live-in staffing arrangement at the end of March, the individual who tested positive had been leaving the home due to an underlying health condition that did not allow her to skip life sustaining medical treatment in the outside world. This individual is currently hospitalized and receiving care.

In order to determine how widespread the impact was to the home, all four remaining residents and the two staff working at this home were tested. Both staff members and all four residents subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. We continue to enact our exposure protocols at this home, including the use of PPE, increased symptom monitoring, and the implementation of extensive sanitization protocols since the outbreak.

We have also had new exposures at our Adult Learning sites in Mt. Prospect and Lincoln Square. Five staff members connected with these sites have tested positive for COVID-19, with additional test results pending. In response, as of this week, we are greatly limiting staff access to these locations. A skeleton crew of five staff will be working onsite full time for the next 2 weeks as we try to minimize the risk of virus spread.

As of April 24, Search has had fourteen staff and ten residents test positive for COVID-19 for a total of twenty-four cases, affecting four CILA homes.    

This week we’ve experienced the worst of this crisis, but we have also seen the very best in people as they step up to offer care and support to Search. We are blessed to have friends like Kathy Brown, Nanette Wrobel, and all the staff at TarryTown Pharmacy. This week, they dropped off 29 bags (enough for all of our homes) filled with art supplies, craft projects, card games, and much more. They also donated 50 cloth masks for our staff.  

Our friends at Domino’s Pizza on Oakton St. also donated pizzas to our homes located near their store. We didn’t have to ask, they simply saw a way to help and stepped up.

This week, our physical plan manager, Shawn Kirby, and Tom Schell bought smiley face cookies (in masks no less!) from their local bakery, and packaged them in gift bags to send to our homes. 

Amanda Cox and her Facebook group, Superhero Masks, are making and donating masks for us to use and they’re not alone. Sue Gumm, Debbie Larson, Cindee Frederick Crosby, Sharon Grubb Anderson, Charlene Zearfoss, and Mags Bouffard have also made cloth masks for us to share with our staff. Additionally, Cheryl Rickerd donated surgical masks and Joe Dentzer donated 4 gallons of Sporicidin, which we have been using to disinfect our sites.

So many of you have been sending in birthday cards to our residents with birthdays in April to help make their day extra special. It has been so successful, that we’re going to ask our supporters to send in cards for our May birthdays. We’ll distribute those names next week.

We are so thankful for everyone and every business and organization which has offered their support in our time of need. Please know that your generosity means everything. Your compassion and kindness bring light and hope to us even during our darkest days. This week we have greatly needed light, so on behalf of everyone at Search, thank you!

Using technology to broaden our horizons without leaving home.

Search is supporting over 170 individuals at 29 CILA homes during this shelter-at-home period. Search is aggressively pursuing technology solutions to help our residents and staff stay connected and engaged during the stay at home order.

Search has now deployed 29 Facebook Portal devices to our homes and our Clinical Services site for use by our nursing staff. Individuals continue to use these devices to connect via video calls with their families and loved ones, their primary care physicians, other healthcare providers, and clinical and nursing staff. We have also made the “Work Chat” cellphone app available so that staff members can stay connected with each other and homes. 

We are using Zoom to engage with our residents in fun activities and learning opportunities. A schedule is distributed weekly and has included a daily morning wake-up workout we call “Zoom-Ba”, book club, virtual experiences like a virtual tour of the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, crafting, Bingo, question & answer town halls, and more. We are also collaborating with Maine-Niles Association of Special Recreation to bring special activities right into our homes. Each day we are providing multiple opportunities for individuals to participate in enriching experiences within the safety of their homes.
Thank you for your support!

On behalf of the entire Search family, I want you to know that your demonstrations of support uplift our spirits and inspire us as we continue to do all we can to care for our residents and each other during this difficult time. Thank you to our entire Search team for their resilience, resourcefulness, and dedication to the individuals we serve. Your energy is contagious - please keep it going!

Before we go...

This week we started a new initiative to try and break up the monotony our residents and staff are feeling from being stuck at home. We’ve begun weekly takeout food deliveries to our homes and would love to do more. Tonight is pizza night! If you would like to help defray some of the cost of this initiative, please make a direct donation below. Any donation in any amount helps!
We hope that these weekly newsletters will help the Search community stay connected and informed as we navigate this crisis together. To keep up to date about Search’s response, and to view or download PDFs of our latest notifications please visit our website here for the latest information and notifications .  

All the best!
Cory Gumm
Search Inc.