As someone whose beloved mother died from COVID-19 in a nursing home without me there, I feel compelled to implore my fellow Americans to stay home, just a little while longer, until the experts assure us that it is OK to relax the social distancing measures. This is real, and it is serious, not for everyone, but for enough of us that we need to sacrifice for others.
Also, while nursing homes on Long Island are being criticized and scapegoated, I have to attest that my mother received extraordinary and compassionate care at hers [“Nursing homes withhold data,” News, April 19]. The empathy of her nurses and caregivers, who allowed me to speak to her and FaceTime with her in her final hours, through their own tears, is a testament to their devotion and profound heroism. I am deeply grateful to them. This has been hard. I pray that it has not all been in vain.
Your reporting on deaths in nursing homes makes valid points. Yet, within this sorrow, there are compassionate and caring professionals. Our staff is in constant contact with family members to inform them of changes in their loved one’s condition. We provide Zoom video calls and hold the phone to the ear of residents so they can hear their loved ones’ voices. The nursing staff stays with dying residents. We inform residents when a tablemate or friend dies and have a weekly televised memorial service where we read the names of the residents who died the prior week.
The staff, which is also profoundly grieving, works overtime to cover the shortage caused by other staff members out sick because they have contracted the virus. Most would prefer to be home with their own families but, out of a sense of duty and love, they work long days to care for residents. The constant scrutiny by the media and questioning by the public is disheartening and demoralizing for those who are sacrificing their own health, and that of their family, each day they walk out the door to go to work. Why are hospital workers considered heroes and those in nursing homes villains?
Michele A. Boccia,
Editor’s note: The writer is director of pastoral care at Maria Regina residence, a sponsored ministry by the Sisters of St. Joseph.
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