Updated: Oct 6
By Pati Bedwell
As the year 2020 comes to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on all the things we have to be grateful for, especially in such a trying year. Because of Covid-19, everything is different this year. I’ve been thinking about the holidays I’ve spent working in nursing homes. It may sound odd to say, but those were some of the best holidays! So many people from the community dropping by to visit and bring gifts. Families would go out of their way to show appreciation to the staff for the care they provide their loved ones, bringing holiday gifts and treats. Activities are plentiful – the days are packed with singing, parties, and, of course, holiday bingo.
This year, things are very different. Most nursing homes are closed to visitors. Families visit through windows, if at all. For some residents, the staff are the only people they see. The staff at most places are taxed to their limit and facilities are seeing even higher rates of turnover than usual. The holiday picture this year looks much grimmer than it was. No one is sure when things will get back to “normal,” when families can visit their loved ones, when they can be there with their resident and help them (and the staff) with some of their daily routines.
Unless you work in a facility or have a loved one there, you probably don’t realize just how much work family members do at a facility. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a forced work – it’s just little things families do to help their loved one – but all those little things added up to a lot of time and that extra time allowed the staff to do more for more residents. Now, anything a resident needs or wants falls to the staff to provide. Add to that the constant testing and worry about the virus and you’ll get a snapshot of the worries and the scope of the job that each health care worker faces every day they go to work. I don’t know how they do it.
Well, maybe I do know how they do it. I’ve talked with some workers at facilities and they talk about their frustrations with their job and it’s mostly about not being able to do everything that needs doing on any given day. For a lot of the workers, this a calling more than a job. Unfortunately, this is an industry where the old adage, “one bad apple spoils the whole bunch” takes root, so someone can break their back helping residents all day long and it can all be undone by a lazy co-worker or, worse yet, by a comment said by a co-worker with a sharp tongue. Now, the overall impression is the staff doesn’t care, they’re lazy and the family’s worries begin to escalate.
The pandemic has put a spotlight on long-term care. Maybe that spotlight will stay shining and will lead us to better staffing requirements and other improvements in the long-term care industry so the quality of life people have in these facilities truly can be the best. Until then, I want to give a shout out of appreciation to those dedicated workers in our long-term term care facilities. The ones who come in early and stay late. The ones who set up video calls for residents, the ones who take the time to make sure everyone gets their medications, their baths, their meals. The ones who stop and listen to the residents’ stories and the ones who make them laugh and who help them remember they are somebody. These are not the ones making big bucks – truth is, most techs could make as much at McDonald’s as they do working in facilities – but, these are the ones I am so grateful for because they are the ones truly taking care of our most vulnerable loved ones.