They say visitor restrictions that have to keep families away is among the most difficult parts.
“It hurts my heart. I know I can go home to my family at night. But it’s hard to know they can’t see their loved ones,” said nurse manager Brittany Brees.
“I’m a big hugger,” said Hannah Peters, director of social services. “That physical touch, we need that. It’s hard to not be able to do that for them, too.”
‘They are my family’
“I love them just as much as I love my family, and I’ll say that over and over,” Brees said. “It’s a rewarding job, and I hope they know that since they can’t be here, we’ll fill in that spot until they can.”
“I see the residents more than I see my own family. They become your family,” said charge nurse Bethany Weber. “They become your grandma and grandpa, too.”
“You can spend a few minutes with them every day, talk with them, whether it’s combing their hair, reminiscing, talking about the weather. Little things, they appreciate,” Brees said. “That companionship they’re lacking, they miss their families a lot.”
Added safety adds comfort
The virus has turned their world at the Sioux Falls Village upside down, forcing new measures of safety to keep staff and residents protected.
“We have everything we need to be safe, and we’ve been given the tools to be safe,” said certified nursing assistant Richie Lugo.
“Everyone is very diligent about wearing it and wearing it correctly, washing our hands,” said charge nurse Stephanie Spencer. “We have a good team here. We really do.”
Caregivers are wearing many hats in addition to their own, including assisting with dietary needs, laundry services, cleaning and more.
Stepping in as family
In addition to more responsibilities, they’re stepping into the role of family when resident families can’t be near.
“The most challenging part is not being able to see our families and the joy our residents get from that,” Brees said.
“Gaining that trust from them to know their loved ones are taken care of when they’re not here right now is a big step. It’s really become important these last few months. It’s always been important but even more important now,” she added.
“It’s hard because you know how much they’re hurting, too, and you think about your own family and what that would be like – try to step up and be their family for them since theirs can’t be here.”
Feeling the loss
When residents pass away from the virus, their caregivers feel the loss deeply.
“This is the probably hardest time I’ve ever seen in my career,” Spencer said.
Many of them struggle to find words as they begin to process the loss.
“It doesn’t really hit you at work, but when you’re home, you have a lot of tough moments,” Spencer said. “You just have to cry and grieve the losses. These guys really become your family.”
But every day, that gratitude for the work they do is still there, just like they are.
“It’s an honor to be here. Every day is hard, but at the end of the day, you’re making a difference for all of these people,” Spencer said. “These guys need us. At this point in life, I’m happy to be here serving God through our residents.”
Some say this pandemic has brought their teams and working relationships closer.
“I think it has made us all stronger,” Brees said.
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