| Special to The News-Press
Heroes work here.
It’s become a household phrase in the past year, and it is as true for senior care providers as for any healthcare provider in any setting.
As the spread of the coronavirus continues to disrupt the routines and institutions that we take for granted each day, senior care providers remain committed to their calling to deliver the best care possible for Florida’s older adults, even under the most difficult circumstances.
These often-unsung heroes, including in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, memory care, and home health care agencies have faced unprecedented challenges on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.
For months, they have fought the virus with courage and resolve. They did so at first with very little information about how to treat the virus, forcing them to develop strategies to save lives in real time. Katrina Fillyaw, Assistant Administrator at Advent Christian Village in Live Oak, recalls the toll it took on staff trying to keep up with the constant changes.
“For months not a day went by where there wasn’t something new,” Fillyaw said. “At one point, the CDC infection control guidelines changed six times in three weeks. We were on calls, on Zoom meetings, doing everything we could to understand the changes and trying to stay up to date, stay current and remain compliant with regulatory guidelines. All of this while trying to maintain staffing levels, tracking staff and resident illness, and doing what we do on a regular basis. It still is a constant learning curve that involves late nights, 14 to 15-hour days, just to make sure we don’t miss anything.”
Providers across the state not only work tirelessly to create safe working and caregiving environments, they go well beyond their normal functions.
“There were times we had limited staff resources, but everyone pulled together, worked extra hours and performed jobs we never thought we would be doing,” Fillyaw said. “From laundry services to patient care assistance, everyone was cross training to try and help out as much as possible while we continued providing the best possible care. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, we do whatever has to be done to take care of residents and be compliant with ever-changing rules and regulations.”
Long-term care settings are home to older adults with serious underlying health conditions who require hands-on assistance with basic activities of daily living like dressing and bathing.
This, combined with the novelty of the virus and ever-changing treatment protocols makes the virus extremely challenging to mitigate, even for the most sophisticated and well-resourced providers.
“The virus doesn’t discriminate,” Fillyaw said. “Even when you give it your all, there’s still a chance it comes in. I would do anything for our residents, to keep the virus out and to limit the spread if it comes in. It took me a while, and still to this day I think about what we could do better or differently to protect people. The answer is that we are doing everything we can.”
The coronavirus pandemic calls for reflection and redoubling of efforts. Now is not a time for finger-pointing and misplaced blame. This is a time to support our devoted caregivers and embrace the seniors who need their care.
Nick Van Der Linden is the Director of Communications for LeadingAge Florida.