Carol Silver Elliott

Defending elder care   

Nursing homes and other senior living environments have been described as the “hotbed” for the COVID-19 outbreak and I can tell you, from the frontline, that is a true statement.  What is not true, however, is the way in which senior services providers are being indicted as being responsible for the spread of this virus or for the significant impact it has having in the older adult population.

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York recently described the virus as a predator, creeping through the jungle in search of prey.  The predator spots the most vulnerable and, better yet, there are a large number of them, and, boom, the predator strikes.

That is not a far cry from what it feels like to work in senior services in the midst of this pandemic.  The enemy is unseen and devious and pounces unexpectedly.  Where we are in northern New Jersey we knew it would be when and not if and we knew that we didn’t know nearly enough about how to fight this virus—and no one else could tell us because they didn’t know either.

I will tell you with great pride that we have been focused and strong in this battle.  I will tell you that our team has worked diligently and intensely to not just care for our elders but to save their lives.  I will tell you that every treatment, every innovation that we hear about, or think up, we are trying.  There is no standing still.

Not all, but many of our elders are overcoming this virus and being discharged from isolation, fully recovered.  We celebrate each one with applause and cheering and we hand them a certificate that honors them as a “COVID Warrior.”

How our staff welcome elders returning to their rooms after recovering from COVID-19

This is how our Jewish Home staff celebrate elders returning to their rooms after recovering from COVID-19! #NewTraditions #JewishHomeFamily #DanceDanceDance

פורסם על ידי ‏‎The Jewish Home Family‎‏ ב- יום שלישי, 21 באפריל 2020

I can’t speak for other organizations but I know that many of my colleagues are making the same efforts that we are.  I know that they are scrambling, as we have, to acquire the necessary personal protective equipment, and swallowing hard when we have to wire money overseas or use unknown vendors to get what we need.  But we are doing it.  I know that they, like we, know that nothing is more important than the health and safety of our elders and our staff and that they, too, lay awake every night asking themselves “What more can I do?”

Are there some facilities that are not stepping us to this challenge?  Are there some that don’t have the resources or perhaps the support to do so?  There likely are, just as there are marginal players in any business.

But for those of us who have dedicated our careers and our lives to the care of elders, we are doing more than the best we can, we are doing everything we can.  And we won’t stop.  Not now.  Not ever.

When senior services providers, especially nursing homes, are all portrayed as one and the same, that is not only inaccurate, it is misleading.  It is also upsetting to our elders, frightening for their family members and demoralizing for our staff.

I salute our elder service providers, I salute all of those on the frontlines who have the courage, the commitment and the passion to do this work and I am proud to be among them.

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 past chair of LeadingAge and the Association of Jewish Aging Services.
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