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In Our Nursing Homes, We Work With Heroes | Opinion

The coronavirus has infected nearly every corner of America, but perhaps none have been hit harder than long-term care facilities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hundreds of facilities across the U.S. have reported a positive case. Unfortunately, we at CareOne have not been spared from this unprecedented crisis.

Some have even referred to the nursing homes as “ground zero” in the war against the coronavirus. Yet thousands of caregivers and nurses have been showing remarkable courage by coming to work every day to battle the virus and care for the most vulnerable members of our community; our grandparents, our parents, friends, and loved ones.

The risks they take cannot be understated. It’s impossible to even contemplate social distancing at one of our facilities. Unlike the dangers faced in a hospital setting, which are challenging in their own right, our residents require constant physical contact; from cleaning, to feeding, to dressing. Our caregivers hold our residents’ hands and soothe them, sometimes in their final hours. There is no other way for our staff to do their jobs. We are proud of the courage and compassion our team brings to work each day.

But the dangers from the coronavirus don’t end when they leave work. The virus threatens to follow them home and spread to their families. As such, many of our employees have taken the extra precaution to send their children and loved ones to live elsewhere or physically separate themselves at home to prevent any chance that their family members get sick. Many have not seen or hugged their children for weeks because of their dedication to work. This additional sacrifice is nothing short of selfless and heroic.

There’s also the emotional toll weighing on them. Caregivers develop relationships with the residents. They form bonds after spending months, sometimes years getting to know them. It’s quite difficult for them to witness the health decline of the people they’ve come to care for and call friends. Our compassionate caregivers hold the hands of these residents and soothe them, even in end-of-life situations.

To the families that have been restricted from visiting their loved ones as we follow the CDC and Department of Health guidelines, please know that we will continue to do our best during these extraordinary times to connect you with your loved ones via FaceTime and other electronic means. We will continue to make those connections, which are so important, and provide as much real-time information as is possible under the circumstances. Please know that our caregivers are doing all they can to care for your loved ones and treat them as you would.

I want to give an example of some of the heroic actions our caregivers have taken. Recently, a nursing home in Woodbridge became overrun with COVID-19. The virus depleted the staff and spread among residents. The New Jersey Department of Health urgently requested help from CareOne, which had no prior relationship to the home. Several of our staff volunteered – without knowing the conditions or level of risk to their own well-being – and arrived at the nursing home within hours. As you can imagine, the situation was dire. In fact, the state declared the facility a public health emergency and closed it down within a day. Yet our caregivers didn’t hesitate to rush in to help strangers and those most in need.

Federal officials have declared the fight against the coronavirus a war. It is a war and our caregivers and nurses march straight to the frontlines every day.

Please keep in mind the sacrifices and risks they take.

They do an incredible job and we express our deep admiration and appreciation during these times.

Lizzy Straus is executive vice president of CareOne, based in Fort Lee operates 60 facilities in New Jersey and four other states around the region. It has more than 5,000 employees and admits and discharges more than 20,000 residents each year.

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