WELLINGTON—Last Friday afternoon, Rivercross Hospice chaplain and musician Robert Roswurm sang and played church songs and pop classics on his guitar for an audience of residents who sat in chairs wearing masks at Wellington Health and Rehab. Some listeners cried, others sang along.

Most were just happy to get a little outside time and take in the performance. One female resident made a special effort to tell Roswurm how much she enjoyed his performance.

Roswurm, who has been a Rivercross employee for the past 8 months, performed such numbers as "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," "Amazing Grace" and "Cry to Me."

Since April when COVID-19 prompted long term care facilities to close their doors to the public, Roswurm has been performing to nursing home crowds consistently in such towns as Andover, Kingman and Newton to name a few.

The musical performances lift the spirits of residents who remain primarily in their rooms, unable to leave the facility or take in person visits from loved ones due to the vulnerability COVID-19 poses to elderly people.

While the rest of the state and country is gradually opening up, long term care facilities remain just as shut down as they were before the state even began to shut down, Marla Nispel, administrator of Wellington Health and Rehab and Botkin Care and Rehab, said.

Among residents, there is "increased depression," Nispel said. "There’s been some decline in physical health. There’s hopelessness. They don’t see the world outside. They don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel."

Family members have visited loved ones from outside windows and via iPads, which are helpful, but nothing can replace personal contact, Nispel said.

Residents have also received mental health services through tele-health, she said.

"We are in the process of writing a reopening plan," Nispel said. "We still have to follow CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) and state of Kansas guidelines and work with the local health department. We have to cover all aspects of the reopening."

Nispel said music provided by people like Roswurm nourishes the soul of nursing home residents and employees. It was a welcome change from the isolation imposed on them by COVID-19.