‘The Devastation is Indescribable’ How People are Coping and Caring at Long Term Care Facilities



Greater than half of coronavirus outbreaks in Virginia are at long run care amenities, and people outbreaks could be particularly lethal.  RADIOIQ has this have a look at why nursing house residents are susceptible and the way their households are coping. 

Nearly a yr in the past Kitty Grey’s mom moved to an assisted dwelling facility in Richmond. Now the group is on lockdown. 

Her mom will get exterior for a stroll as soon as a day, and watches loads of Grey’s Anatomy on her iPad. However whereas she’s stayed wholesome to date, her daughter nonetheless worries.

“Simply that she might die in a hospital alone, as a result of you possibly can’t have guests,” Grey mentioned. “That might be terrible.”

In response to the Virginia Division of Well being, greater than 20-percent of the state’s recorded deaths from COVID-19 have been residents of long run care amenities.

A lot of these deaths have now been at simply two amenities. Canterbury Rehabilitation and Healthcare Heart in Richmond lately reported its 50th COVID-19 associated dying, and greater than 20 residents of Accordius Well being in Harrisonburg have now died. 

Judy Wilhide Brandt was a nurse in long-term care for many years, then a state regulator. Now she advises nursing properties across the nation. “The devastation is indescribable,” she mentioned throughout a current telephone interview. “It’s terrible.”


For the previous month she’s been on the telephone with facility managers who’re unexpectedly on the frontlines of a viral battle. At first, she mentioned, they didn’t have the weapons they wanted: testing, PPE, and further workers. 

“We have been sitting geese and we knew it,” mentioned Wilhide Brandt. “And we’ve been screaming and we’ve been going to heroic efforts to get PPE and to get testing.”

Widespread testing is significant as a result of sometimes nursing house workers work in a number of amenities. If they’ve the virus and are asymptomatic there’s no approach to know in the event that they’re spreading it until everyone seems to be examined.


On high of that nursing properties are social environments. “You share your room, you stand up within the morning, you go into the dayroom. You sit across the desk with different residents, you play playing cards, you play bingo, you chat,” described Wilhide Brandt.

It’s an surroundings that’s imagined to be comforting and communal. However when a virus sneaks in? It’s a recipe for devastation. 

Luckily, issues are getting a bit higher in Virginia. 

Keith Hare is CEO of the Virginia Well being Care Affiliation and Virginia Heart for Assisted Residing. He says amenities have extra PPE and testing capability has ramped up, though neither is the place it must be but. 

“It is a marathon not a dash,” Hare mentioned. “This virus goes to be with us for a protracted time period.” 

As amenities proceed to work with the state and federal authorities to extend entry to PPE and guarantee residents’ bodily well being, specialists say it’s additionally going to be essential to recollect psychological well being. 

That’s a priority for Alycia Comer-Wright, whose mom has schizophrenia. Her docs have warned {that a} extra remoted way of life might lead to elevated delusions. 

“It’s laborious since you don’t actually know the way they’re being handled, however all of their actions are also just about…. they’ve misplaced rather a lot too,” she mentioned. She and her kids used to go to weekly. Now all of them miss interplay with their grandmother. 

Jennifer Pryor, a gerontologist at Virginia Commonwealth College, encourages individuals to succeed in out to their household and keep linked. If they will’t, she says to ask facility workers to assist. “To say ‘How will you assist me entry my beloved one? Is there one thing that we are able to do collectively in order that I can talk and keep linked?’” Pryor suggested. 

Communication has been key for Kitty Grey and her mom. They discuss on the telephone each evening, and this week Grey and her siblings hosted a pizza social gathering exterior her mother’s window.


This report, offered by Virginia Public Radio, was made attainable with assist from the Virginia Education Association.


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