COVID in Long-Term Care
A Light Amongst Darkness
I saw the news today, highlighting the deplorable conditions reported at several long-term care homes in Ontario. I was saddened. I was angry. This is unacceptable. I was thankful light was brought to the situation. I also felt compelled to offer an alternative perspective. As an employee of a long-term care home, I felt I needed to share my experience during COVID-19. I felt like we all needed a light in all the darkness.
I would never want to minimize the anguish, the uncertainty, the anger that these families experienced. That is not my purpose or intention. This is not to minimize their pain. The residents and their families who were treated this way deserve all the justice in the world.
Often, we only see one side to a story. It is so easy to focus only on injustice. While it is important to highlight these situations, and hold those involved accountable, I want to offer you another side to a story of long-term care. We are bombarded with disease rates and death tolls daily and are painted a picture of long-term care that would make anyone cringe. We see scary images of people in masks, understaffed and overworked. It would make most people with a loved one in long-term care even more uncertain and uncomfortable in a time riddled with fear. We must not forget to paint the other side of the picture. To recognize those who are stepping up, those who are giving extra. Extra love, extra time, extra dedication. All above and beyond what is being asked of them.
They are not only protecting and serving our most vulnerable, but offering them love, a sense of family, a sense of hope, a sense of normalcy. We must not only focus on the stories of horror and in that forget to recognize those care communities who bring light to a time of darkness. We must not forget to thank those who bring passion and dedication to their jobs. Those, who despite their fear or their exhaustion come back each day with a renewed energy and enthusiasm to provide the best care.
I have witnessed staff paint fingernails, curl hair, sing songs, rock baby dolls, dance, throw a birthday party, offer a gentle touch through a gloved hand, smile behind their masks. None of these things were asked of them, yet they did them, no matter how tired, how scared, how uncertain they felt. I have seen staff wipe away a resident's tears when they are missing their loved ones, remind them we love them, turn away to shed a tear of their own, then continue to smile through it all. I have witnessed administration steeping away from their desks to lend a hand serving meals or say a prayer. Arriving early and staying late to ensure every resident continues to receive the utmost care and respect. Arranging calls on an iPad, recording video messages, sanitizing, and delivering packages to residents all to ensure they feel connected to family and friends. I have witnessed innovation, adaptation, and togetherness that can only be described as inspiring. I have witnessed a community coming together to donate food, PPEs, inspiring messages to staff and residents alike, each asking for nothing in return, driving home the message that although we are physically apart, we are in this together.
I know the care community in which I work is not a one off. I know this is more common a story than is reported in the news. We have all seen a lot of sadness, and it's easy to choose to focus on that, and while we cannot forget the injustice in those homes and learn from the mistakes made, we also cannot forget to thank those who put their all into everything they do to care for our most vulnerable.
So, as an employee of a long-term care home and as someone who has trusted the staff of a long-term care home to love and care for one of the most important people in my life, I take this opportunity to say thank you to the employees and ask others to do the same. To the employees of long-term care homes, you are seen. The job you do, not only during COVID-19, but always, matters. The love you show makes a difference. Long-term care may be painted in a negative light at times, but that will never negate all the hard working, dedicated heroes that work in long-term care. You are seen, you matter, and you are appreciated.
BSO Social Worker
Leamington Mennonite Home & Apartments