Because We Must

Just a few short weeks ago, COVID-19 or the coronavirus was not a part of our everyday life or our everyday language.  Now we are inundated with news reports as well as significant federal, State and local actions that are being taken in an effort to quell the spread of the virus.

I would suspect that nowhere is this more keenly felt or deeply discussed than in the world of older adult services.  Elders living in residential settings, especially nursing homes, have been a focal point in many ways, particularly since the tragic deaths that occurred at a long term care facility in Washington.

It would be an understatement to say that we are monitoring the updates from CDC, CMS and our State and local Health Departments.  We are sharing and discussing every update, taking part in every webinar or conference call and updating our procedures frequently, sometimes even multiple times a day.

Across our organization, we care for hundreds of vulnerable elders and we are deeply attuned to the need to keep them safe.  We also are very aware that our staff, numbering over 500, are also at risk.  We didn’t need to see the charts that have been in the media to know that healthcare workers are at the top of the list in terms of risk and exposure.

When I thanked one of our staff for being here, he said “What else would I do?” That’s the attitude that I see across the board.  Our nurses, aides, housekeeping and laundry staff, maintenance team, therapists, management team and so many more are all not just coming to work but they are lending a hand wherever needed.  They are each bringing their full commitment and dedication to our elders and willingly pitching in to help.

As we follow the regulations to keep visitors out of our facilities and restrict and eliminate group activities, the demands on our team have increased as you can well imagine.  Just the logistics of delivering food to people formerly served in dining rooms are staggering not to mention the effort to promote engagement and connection while discouraging people from congregating.

Through all of the challenges of today and those we expect to follow, our team is staying strong and proactive.  I am so proud of each member of our staff and while I believe that our folks and unique and talented and dedicated, I also know that healthcare workers around the country and around the globe share those same qualities.  We exist to take care of those who need us, we know that families trust us to care for their loved ones and we know that trust is sacred and honor it.

We do this work because we must, because this is what we are committed to do, what we are called to do and what we believe.  We pray for the health and safety of everyone, especially the most fragile among us.

About the Author
Carol Silver Elliott is President and CEO of The Jewish Home Family, which runs NJ's Jewish Home at Rockleigh, Jewish Home Assisted Living, Jewish Home Foundation and Jewish Home at Home. She joined The Jewish Home Family in 2014. Previously, she served as President and CEO of Cedar Village Retirement Community in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is chair-elect of LeadingAge and past chair of the Association of Jewish Aging Services.
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