We see the HERO signs thanking the army of healthcare workers in the middle of the COVID-19 battle outside hospitals, nursing homes and medical clinics, and rightfully deserved. Of course, nursing homes have taken a beating in the news due to the COVID-19 impact on their residents. According to research by USA Today over 42% of all COVID-19 deaths have occurred in nursing homes. Sixty-four percent of coronavirus deaths in Connecticut were in nursing homes and 69% in Pennsylvania’s facilities. Paramus Veterans Memorial Home in New Jersey had 264 COVID-19 cases and 71 deaths in one facility. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. nursing home population is 1.5 million residents and is expected to grow to over 5 million by 2030.
Nursing homes were asked to do things during this pandemic that they were not designed to handle. A pandemic with greater impact on an elderly population zeroed in on nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Almost immediately nursing homes were in the news and calls increased for more scrutiny demanding State inspections and changing operational protocols. These facilities where our loved ones make their homes were not only isolated islands, they were plagued with negative news reports. The news stories only focused on the numbers and not how workers on the inside were facing challenges they never expected to see not to mention the impact on their own lives. Yet, real heroes exist and in the majority of nursing homes they overcame massive odds to help save lives from this menacing virus.
Hero Number 1: Maryland Baptist Aged Home located in Baltimore
While so many nursing homes have been slammed by COVID-19, this facility has had no deaths or infections. Zero. Consider the odds, against this home from the beginning. They are not only located in a state that was especially hard hit with the virus, add in an inner-city location in Baltimore, along with a 60% Black resident population. Anyone betting would say the odds were stacked against this facility. Yet, no one has come down with the coronavirus. How can this be true?
The Administrator, Derrick DeWitt, is also a pastor of the First Mount Calvary Church in Baltimore and he knew he had to step up defenses as soon as he heard about the virus. DeWitt understood from past experiences in Black communities that help would not arrive in time for his residents. Administrator DeWitt immediately took action while most were still waiting for instructions from government agencies. Without waiting he closed the facility to visitors, weeks ahead of most nursing homes. He isolated the residents in rooms and re-trained his staff and stressed the importance of handwashing. As a minister, he knew God would protect but added, “I still need a seat belt when in my car”. He knew this virus was a challenge his team had to handle internally, and they did.
Pastor Derrick DeWitt is a hero, he and his team at Maryland Baptist Aged Home saved lives and set an example for other homes with few resources.
Hero Number 2: Rose Castle Assisted Living Center located in Jacksonville
So many workers tell the heartbreaking stories of how disappointed and confused residents are and can’t fully understand why loved ones cannot visit. Recently, a story in the Washington Post tugged at everyone’s heart. Mary Daniel recounts the stories of her waiving at her husband though a special window at Rose Castle Assisted Living Center in Jacksonville, Florida but he really did not recognize her with the mask and gown. It tore at her heart that she could not be inside to comfort her husband in person. So, she decided the best way to overcome the situation was to get a job in the nursing home. The only opening was for a dishwasher and she happily grabbed it. Now she gets to see her husband in person both before her shift and after. She explained, “it means the world to both of us to be together in person”.
If you don’t agree that the staff working in nursing homes are heroes, it’s because you have not seen the passion they have for their family of residents. Similar to a soldier coming back from battle, these heroes all were shedding tears while explaining the valent work of their team. One story that says it all was when one management team member recalled how the kitchen staff helped curl resident’s hair when the beauty shop opened due to the heavy demand. Everyone wanted to do anything they could to show support and love for the residents and make them feel good about themselves again. These are real heroes.