A local long-term care worker tells of coping with coronavirus: ‘When we lose a patient, we all cry together — these precious patients are our family.’

A local long-term care worker tells of coping with coronavirus: ‘When we lose a patient, we all cry together — these precious patients are our family.’

Each weekday, the state updates the status of long-term care facilities as they battle to protect residences and staff members. . Below, a veteran physical therapist at a Northwest Georgia campus talks about the human side of caring for our most frail.

 

The following is a letter written by a physical therapist at a long-term care facility serving Northwest Georgia. It has been edited slightly. The writer talks about what is happening in her long-term care facility as all cope with coronavirus. State records show 14 such facilities in Floyd, Bartow and Gordon counties have identified residents and employees who have tested positive for the virus. More than two dozen patients have died.

The writer shares the impact of those losses on everyone, including the staff, and about caring for worried patients as they have limited contact with loved ones. The challenge: To cheer them up as some become depressed by social distancing and other issues. The letter follows:


‘Our nurses, CNAs and therapists work tirelessly, pulling double shifts some days with dwindling supplies…’

First, no I am neither a nurse nor a doctor nor a first responder but a physical therapist who is just as much on the front lines as the others. In fact, I was one of the first healthcare workers in our facility to contract the virus.

My family and I were extremely concerned because I am in my 60s and an asthmatic. After going to Urgent Care, I was tested for COVID, strep and influenza. I was immediately told I had Influenza B but did not receive my COVID results until 13 days after testing. I was told by the nurse practitioner if I started feeling like I was breathing through a straw to go to the ER immediately. Thanks for easing my mind!

I was quite sick for two weeks but came back to work after my quarantine to a building with mounting number of COVID cases, and to be honest, I was scared. Not only for myself but for my therapy team, our doctor and his nurse practitioners, our nurses and CNAs, the housekeepers that had to clean the contaminated rooms daily, the social workers that were bringing their own phones into patients’ rooms while they were on isolation so that they could Facetime their family members and other workers who may might have direct contact with the patients but essential to keep our facility running.

My issue is that the Long-Term Care Facilities and even the Assisted Living Facilities are not getting the recognition or at least not the positive recognition that hospitals are getting. All we have been receiving is criticism because of the vast numbers of COVID cases that are growing within the facility “obviously” due to our poor care!!

All I have to say to the inaccurate portrayal of our facilities and our care is that everyone needs to walk a day in our shoes. A high percentage of our patients are DNRs (do not resuscitate), therefore will not be sent to the hospitals for treatment and yes, they die. But not because of inadequate or substandard care!

Our nurses, CNAs and therapists work tirelessly, pulling double shifts some days with dwindling supplies of PPE (personal protective equipment). When we lose a patient,
we all cry together — these precious patients are our family. I have seen in the last two weeks defeat on all our faces; we are emotionally and physically exhausted.

In our morning meeting of the department heads, we pray every day for our patients/residents, each other and our families and for the strength to get through the day. Yet all we get is
criticism! Our patient population the very weakest and most compromised are statistically not going to have a positive outcome if contracting COVID 19; however, we have had many bounce back and make a full recovery.

Here are several barriers that we face as facilities that rely on our government for most of our reimbursement.

  • First, most of our patient rooms are semiprivate, if one patient gets the virus the odds are very high that the roommate will follow suit. In the hospitals, all rooms are private and can keep patients separate in order to keep the risk of spread minimal. Our staffing is sometimes a problem because we do not have unlimited resources to draw from as the
    hospitals do.
  • We have had a shortage of PPE because if anyone is going to get a bulk shipment in order of importance, it is going to be the hospitals.
  • We have no clout; we do not seem to be the” heroes” that the hospitals have been portrayed. They are “saving” lives while we are struggling to keep our patients comfortable, giving them the best care possible while hopefully pulling them through the ravages of this virus.
  • My rehab department has not only been continuing to treat the patients that have shown improvement from the virus but have also pitched in to pass meal trays and feed the
    ones that are unable to feed themselves.

As a facility, we have tried to ease the depression and boredom of our patients that have been confined to their rooms by singing to them from the hallways, organizing parades outside in the parking lot with their family members driving through so they are able to see them and talk to them from six feet away with patients decked out in masks and daily visits from any staff member that has time to sit and talk, play a hand of rummy or read to them.

Yet, we are being portrayed as healthcare workers that are giving our patients substandard care and that is the reason they are dying?

I am proud of where I work, of the company I work for, and the values and mission statement that we proudly represent. I hope and pray that you can get this email where it needs to go so that someone can show the Long Term Care and Assisted Living Facilities in a different light.

We are to be celebrated just as much as the other healthcare workers because we are all in this together supposedly! We are just as important and just as dedicated, facing the same hazards as any other healthcare workers or facilities.

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