Health care heroes: Caring for seniors in a pandemic

RN on the front lines: “I wanted to go through this with them"

Oliver Wang and Sarah Holsten in surgical face masks

When residents started being tested for COVID-19 at Good Samaritan Society – Hastings Village, Sarah Holsten, a certified nursing assistant, was ready and willing to help care for those who had positive test results.

“I wanted to make sure someone was there for them,” said Holsten.

Oliver Wang, a registered nurse who works the night shift at Hastings Village, also took care of residents in the COVID-19 unit. Because this is a time of historical significance, he felt called to serve.

“This is a very special time, happening once in a hundred years, so I felt it’s an honor to take care of people with this condition,” he said. “I wanted to go through this with them.”

Senior care on a COVID-19 unit

When Holsten helped in the unit, she worked double shifts and one time stayed for several days in a row without going home.

“It gave me a different perspective on residents living in a nursing home because I was there with them 24/7,” she said.

Holsten worked in the unit for a month and had lots of conversations with residents. She wanted to make sure to keep them company during visitor restrictions.

“I’d go into the room and sit in the doorway and have a conversation because their only visitor was me,” she said. “I was constantly checking on them.”

Learn more: Senior care services at Good Samaritan Society

During his time in the unit, Wang says the residents were asymptomatic. But, he feels like the isolation from friends and family put a strain on them and many felt depressed.

Fortunately, staff members were working diligently to provide exceptional care.

“Residents cannot survive without help from our nursing assistants. We can’t thank them enough,” said Wang. “It’s hard work.”

Through the conversations Holsten had with residents, she got unique insight into how they were feeling.

Care continues as normal, just with ‘armor’

She says it was exhausting wearing personal protective equipment, but because she enjoys running in her free time, she had the stamina for it.

“It was sort of like any other day; you just had to wear kind of a suit of armor,” Holsten said.

Oliver felt the same about wearing the required gowns and masks because it got so warm, making him sweat.

Caregiving has changed during the pandemic, but it’s brought Holsten and her co-workers closer. They’re all focused on being there for the residents when they can’t have visitors.

“We’re doing extra things, trying to fill the gap with family not being able to be there. And we’re also there to calm the fears and worries of their families,” Holsten said. “Our phone is never on the receiver.”

The pandemic helps her remember why she became a CNA: to serve others.

“Ever since I was young, I knew I wanted to help people,” Holsten said. “You care more for residents than yourself. Even when I’m away, I’m thinking of them. They’re family.”

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Posted In Coronavirus, Health Care Heroes, Senior Services

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