BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Residents at Autumn Lake Healthcare at Berkeley Heights are in search of a pen pal to keep them connected while social distancing. 

"For most of us, these last several months have been a bit more stressful. But for people in long term care facilities this quarantine away from their loved ones has been understandably difficult at times," said Cathy Balsamo, Concierge/Community Liaison at Autumn Lake.

While Autumn Lake Healthcare keep their residents entertained and happy while they continue to shelter in place, the residents sometimes feel lonely. Visitors had been strictly cut off since the onset of the pandemic four months ago.  

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Ben Basch, Administrator at Autumn Lake Healthcare said, "While it was sometimes difficult to keep the residents isolated, our efforts have paid off. We have been COVID free for 21 days now and last week we were deficiency free on our COVID-19 state survey." 

Balsamo came up with the pen pal program as a way to lift the sprits of their residents while we continue to keep the residents safe with continued shelter in place, "This is an awesome way of keeping them connected to the community, who has been incredibly supportive through this pandemic, as well as the outside world." 

Letters can be mailed to Autumn Lake Healthcare at Berkeley Heights, 35 Cottage Street, Berkeley Heights, NJ 07922, ATTN: Cathy Balsamo. Address the letter to the name of the resident featured in the photo gallery.

"We will be sure to hand deliver the letter to the proper resident and read it with them," said Balsamo. "We will then reply to your letter.  When this pandemic is behind us and our quarantine is lifted we will have a get together here at our facility so the pen pals can meet the resident." 

"As always we are incredibly grateful to be a part of this awesome community filled with so much love and support," she said.

As of Father's Day, June 22, the state had lifted the visitation restrictions at long-term care facilities. Such visits must be held outdoors and follow a set of safeguards necessary in light of the devastating impact the virus has had on such facilities. Autumn Lake set up five tents in their parking lot with separate visitation stations six feet apart and each station is disinfected between every visit. Visitors must call 24 hours in advance to schedule their 20-minute.

Autumn Lake Healthcare at Berkeley Heights is located at 35 Cottage Street in Berkeley Heights. Call 908-897-1000 for more information.