As I approach the sign-covered doors of the long-term care facility where I work, I am reminded of the reality for these residents, who are no longer permitted visits from loved ones, due to the COVID-19 and I am more aware than ever of the importance of the role I have in insuring their peace of mind, providing comfort and care and giving reassurance in knowing they are not forgotten during this difficult time.
The front desk is a little different now. A nurse wearing a mask greets me, with a thermometer to ensure I am not running a temperature, followed by a couple of questions which have become the new norm: “Have you been out of the country?” No. “Do you have a cough?” No. “Have you been in contact with anyone who has tested positive with COVID -19?” No.
Inquiring minds and curious eyes can be felt by the residents who occupy areas within the front entrance. Some are aware of what lies outside the doors while others wear faces of confusion and uncertainty. I smile and greet each resident, to ensure they know they are seen, heard and loved.
As I walk through the halls, I become more present to the impact COVID -19, social distancing, and social isolation is having on these residents.
For some like *Betty, she feels a loss of freedom, no longer being able to leave the facility to go across the street to the mall or out to lunch with her sons. Although she is saddened by this, she still maintains a smile and high hopes it will all change very soon. Currently her sadness is not showing any long-term effect. I am inspired and moved by her positive outlook on the situation.
For other residents, like *Louise, she is afraid and unsure of why she has not seen her family and worries if they are ok. I assure her they are fine and let her know we can call them after breakfast. I advise the unit nurse, as *Louise will need the support of one of the workers to dial the number using the portable phone in the unit, as well as hold the phone for her while she speaks. This will reassure *Louise that her family is okay and reduce her stress levels around the safety of her family during these uncertain times.
Then there are seniors like *Katie, with the mind of a child who are often found glued to the news on the TV. She stands up and pounds the table with her two fists in frustration “Why can’t they find a cure??” she yells. “Why can’t they find a cure??!!” I can hear the fear and concern in her voice. She is scared, like most small children would be watching the news. This kind of stress could affect any pre-existing medical conditions she may have. I calmly respond with a soft tone “Everyone is doing the best they can to work together and find a cure, it is a top priority.” Thankfully she accepts my response, turns of the tv and turns her attention to something else. I find comfort in knowing she is okay, for now.
*Paul sits quietly in his wheelchair staring out the window, his eyes are dim and there is no smile on his face to greet me. I look out the window with him and feel a sense of loneliness. Although in the moment we are together, the world outside is a lot less full. There are no longer endless cars driving by, or people walking on the sidewalks. Only a couple people stand waiting for the bus. I can only imagine how he feels looking out at the emptiness, once filled with so much activity and life.
My heart is heavy, and I am saddened for seniors like Paul, and the other residents here, who I know rely so much on positive human interactions. It is detrimental to their overall well-being and quality of life. These residents are our grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, family and friends, all who have in some way, shape or form paved the way for the life we have now. As a personal support worker, and more importantly as a human being, I must do my best to protect one of the most vulnerable members of today’s society, and together we must all do our part, so not only our seniors survive but all of humanity survives.
Amy Duncan, PSW
*Names of residents changed for privacy