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Sending hope as COVID-19 hits long-term care centers worst

The daughter of a resident at a Wichita long-term care facility is requesting a card shower to help provide support and encouragement.
Published: Nov. 26, 2020 at 12:09 AM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Long-term care facilities continue to feel and face the brunt of COVID-19.

That includes Homestead Health Center in Wichita, which has been experiencing an outbreak of the virus this month.

Homestead Health Center COVID Update November 25, 2020 It seems impossible to wrap our heads around the fact...

Posted by Homestead Health Center on Wednesday, November 25, 2020

“We’re kind of in the middle of the fire. We have all but six of our residents that have tested positive for COVID. That started in November, the 7th, and it’s kind of been a trickle effect, but this is the third day that those six have screened negative, so that’s a good thing,” said Elizabeth Green, the administrator for Homestead Health Center.

It’s been a difficult year for those in or with family in long-term care centers.

That includes Carol Holmes, whose mom, Dorothy, is a resident of Homestead.

“During this time of Thanksgiving, when we’re all being grateful for the things that we have, and a good percentage of us still have our health, I think it’s so important to remember those that don’t,” said Holmes. “When COVID started spreading, they’re even more isolated now. Since last March, I haven’t been able to hug my mother. Touch her. I can see her through a window.”

Last week, Holmes learned that her mom was one of the people impacted by the pandemic at the 62-bed facility, testing positive for the virus last week.

“She is doing better today. I think a number of the residents are improving, so that’s a blessing,” said Holmes.

The facility has seen two deaths related to COVID-19, but most residents like Holmes’s mom Dorothy have only suffered mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.

“When the virus gets in, it spreads like wildfire. Our facility is 95 percent semi-private. Which means everyone has a roommate pretty much. Once one roommate gets it, it’s just a matter of time until the second one is going to get it.” Green said, “That’s been how ours has spread.”

Homestead has also been facing a shortage of staff as people from all departments are out with COVID-19.

Green said, “Our staff feels like saran wrap over a bowl. They’re stretched pretty thin, but their attitudes are great, and they’re doing a great job.”

During this time, Holmes wanted to do something to support the residents and staff.

“Homestead is a place where you know your loved one is being well cared for. They’re very attentive. And, they’re very open and honest about everything that goes on there. So I have confidence they’re doing the best they can.” Holmes said, “They just treat everyone as if they were their own family member.”

It started as a request for prayers on the Sunnyside neighborhood’s Nextdoor page, but it sparked into a card shower for Homestead.

This is from one of our neighbors.

Posted by SunnysideNews ICT on Saturday, November 21, 2020

“They feel alone and isolated,” said Holmes. “I know that, just from having done volunteer work in a nursing home years ago, they kind of feel like they’re forgotten members of society, and of course, a card can change an entire day for one person. It’s something tangible they can hold and think about the person that sent it to them. Re-read the message in the card. Have it in their room where they can look at it. I just think that’s so important.”

Holmes’s goal is to make sure that the elderly and long-term care facilities are not forgotten this holiday season, and just the simple act of sending a card shows compassion, empathy, and love when it’s needed the most.

Green said that type of community support for long-term care facilities like Homestead is the best way people can assist.

“It’s just overwhelming. I talk to, our nurses talk to, and social services persona and our activities director, we all talk to family members every day, throughout the day, giving updates and just reassuring them and everything but our direct care staff never get a chance to talk to the family. They never get to hear families say, we’re supporting you, we’re praying for you. We’re behind you on this. We know that this is not you’re fault, and you’re doing the best you can.” Green said, “I think having a card shower and having something tangible in your hands that says we love you, we support you, we know you’re doing everything you can to take care of our loved ones is going to be overwhelmingly a boost to all of our staff.”

Holmes said, “I just think that one little extra step that you take makes a huge difference for one person, and there’s a ripple effect. It comes back to you in so many ways.”

Holmes isn’t just encouraging people to do this for Homestead but any long-term care center that might be near where they live because COVID-19 is impacting these places across the country. Whether a homemade card or one from a store, these gestures mean a lot. Of course, with kids home for the holiday, it’s something fun the little ones can do.

“I know of other care centers that are having COVID clusters and would welcome having attention on their residents too and also the staff members. They’re working very hard. They’re putting their life at risk. It’s important to keep them in mind.” Holmes said, “I would definitely urge people to reach out to their care facilities in your immediate neighborhoods.”

Green said, “I have colleagues all over Wichita and the state of Kansas who love and care for their residents just like they were their own family. This is hitting us really, really, really hard. If communities can just understand that these people who we’re taking care of, we think of them no different than we think of our own parents. Our own grandparents and we’re doing everything that we can physically, humanly possible to ensure that they’re well taken care of. That we’re doing everything we can to keep them safe.”

Especially with the holidays this year, good can come in many ways to get through the worst.

“I know that this isn’t want we wanted,” said Green. “Many of us are going to be working tomorrow and not going to be able to be with family because of having to be quarantined because of where we work and who we work with. Christmas is going to be different. We’re hanging our hope on that.”

Holmes said, “It’s the holiday season, and people want to know that they’re being remembered.”

Homestead also works to connect residents to their families over Zoom and Facetime.

Homestead said an Infectious Control Focused Survey was completed of the facility this week, and the surveyor said Homestead complies with all regulations and guidance for COVID-19 issued by the Kansas Department of Aging and Disabilities Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The six residents who have not tested positive are being kept in their own rooms, and staff interactions are being limited to help protect them. Homestead said these residents are independent.

About a dozen residents are coming out of quarantine this week as well and will be moved into their own room as they recover.

Green has also reached out to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for vaccine distribution to Homestead and get details from the contracting pharmacy on getting doses when the vaccine becomes available.

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