A tidal wave of grief and loss has rolled through long-term care facilities as the coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 91,000 residents and staffers — nearly 40% of recorded COVID-19 deaths in the U.S.
And it’s not over: Facilities are bracing for further shocks as coronavirus cases rise across the country.
Workers are already emotionally drained and exhausted after staffing the front lines — and putting themselves at significant risk — since March, when the pandemic took hold. And residents are suffering deeply from losing people they once saw daily, the disruption of routines and being cut off from friends and family.
In response, nursing homes and assisted living centers are holding memorials for people who’ve died, having chaplains and social workers help residents and staff, and bringing in hospice providers to offer grief counseling, among other strategies. More than 2 million vulnerable older adults live in these facilities.
“Everyone is aware that this is a stressful, traumatic time, with no end in sight, and there needs to be some sort of intervention,” said Barbara Speedling, a long-term care consultant working on these issues with the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, an industry organization.
Connie Graham, 65, is corporate chaplain at Community Health Services of Georgia, which operates 56 nursing homes. For months, he’s been holding socially distant prayer services in the homes’ parking lots for residents and staff members.
“People want prayers for friends in the facilities who’ve passed away, for relatives and friends who’ve passed away, for the safety of their families, for the loss of visitation, for healing, for the strength and perseverance to hold on,” Graham said.
Central Baptist Village, a Norridge, Illinois, nursing home, held a socially distanced garden ceremony to honor a beloved nurse who had died of COVID-19. “Our social service director made a wonderful collage of photos and left Post-its so everyone could write a memory” before delivering it to the nurse’s wife, said Dawn Mondschein, the nursing home’s chief executive officer.
“There’s a steady level of anxiety, with spikes of frustration and depression,” Mondschein said of staff members and residents.
Vitas Healthcare, a hospice provider in 14 states and the District of Columbia, has created occasional “virtual blessing services” on Zoom for staffers at nursing homes and assisted living centers. “We thank them for their service and a chaplain gives words of encouragement,” said Robin Fiorelli, Vitas’ senior director of bereavement and volunteers.
Vitas has also been holding virtual memorials via Zoom to recognize residents who’ve died of COVID-19. “A big part of that service is giving other residents an opportunity to share their memories and honor those they’ve lost,” Fiorelli said.
On Dec. 6, Hospice Savannah is going one step further and planning a national online broadcast of its annual “Tree of Light” memorial, with grief counselors who will offer healing strategies. During the service, candles will be lit and a moment of silence observed in remembrance of people who’ve died.
“Grief has become an urgent mental health issue, and we hope this will help begin …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment