[et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ admin_label=”Nursing home residents and staff grapple with anguish and loss during COVID-19″ _builder_version=”4.6.1″ _module_preset=”default”][et_pb_row admin_label=”Nursing home residents and staff grapple with anguish and loss during COVID-19″ _builder_version=”4.6.1″ _module_preset=”default”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”4.6.1″ _module_preset=”default”][et_pb_text admin_label=”Headline” _builder_version=”4.6.1″ _module_preset=”default” text_font_size=”30px” header_font_size=”60px”]COVID-19 Brings Anguish, Loss to Nursing Home Residents & Staff
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By Alexus Underwood   
Special to Arkansascovid.com   

In Arkansas nursing homes, the staff, residents and families all share their own type of sacrifice and heartbreak during the COVID-19 outbreak.

For nursing home staff, it might mean losing the chance to adopt a child or missing a grandchild’s birth because of requirements to remain isolated at work. For one resident, it is the anguish over not being able to visit with family. For a nursing home administrator, it’s not knowing whether those receiving care will ever be able to touch their loved ones again. These are just a few of the pandemic sacrifices intended to keep the state’s number of cases from growing.

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Dorman Journagan and Hillcrest Home’s facility cat, Buddy. Journagan’s family took this photo of Journagan when families were still able to visit the facility freely. Photo courtesy Shirley Harris
[/et_pb_text][et_pb_text admin_label=”Price-Bateson text ” _builder_version=”4.6.1″ _module_preset=”default”]Levi Price-Bateson, 29, social services director at Jamestown Nursing and Rehab in Rogers, Arkansas has faced COVID-19 head-on alongside other staff members. Price-Bateson was one of the volunteers for the facility’s “COVID team,” which includes two certified nursing assistants and two nurses. This team had to live in isolation, including isolation from family at home, to safely assist residents displaying symptoms of COVID-19. 

Price-Bateson and his COVID team weren’t prepared for their first COVID-19 call and wound up sleeping on the floor in the nursing home on the first night. Price-Bateson said that the COVID team was able to move back home after a policy change but had to continue living in isolation. Price-Bateson’s husband had to move out and live with his parents. Through this time, Price-Bateson was working 12-hour days, at a minimum, and continued to provide direct patient care in an infected part of the facility. 
[/et_pb_text][et_pb_text admin_label=”Denise meeting grandson test ” _builder_version=”4.6.1″ _module_preset=”default”]Price-Bateson said that he and his husband were planning to adopt a child, he said, but while in isolation, the adoption fell through. He wasn’t able to go home to comfort his spouse after the emotional setback. Other members of the Jamestown COVID team faced a similar sacrifices. Denise Connerley, who was the Medicare Minimum Data Set (MDS) Coordinator for Jamestown Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and 46 years old during isolation,  had to miss the birth of her grandson because her isolation was necessary to serve the nursing home residents’ safety. When Connerly finally met her grandson for the first time, she wore full personal protective equipment.
[/et_pb_text][et_pb_text admin_label=”Price-Bateson Mother Text” _builder_version=”4.6.1″ _module_preset=”default”]Price-Bateson worries that a newly implemented shortened wait time for family visitation in the facility will allow extended family to more easily enter the home and that could cause a spike in COVID-19 cases. And there are the daily challenges of explaining the COVID-19 restrictions to residents.

“If my mother is confused, which is worse?” Price-Bateson said. “Me standing on the other side of glass knowing that my mother is safe and talking to her on the phone but she can see my face, or me sitting six feet across from her, her not being able to see my face because it’s masked and her not being allowed to touch me, even though I’m that close?”
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Price-Bateson’s living quarters while serving on the COVID team at Jamestown Nursing and Rehab. Price-Bateson and his COVID team had to sleep on the floor the first night their team received a call about a COVID-19 case. Photo courtesy Levi Price-Bateson
[/et_pb_text][et_pb_text admin_label=”Families Angry with Nursing Homes Text” _builder_version=”4.6.1″ _module_preset=”default”]Nursing home residents, especially those who have Alzheimer’s disease, face separate issues in the pandemic.  Dorman Journagan, 92, has been living in Hillcrest Home in Harrison, Arkansas, for nearly four years. Journagan has Alzheimer’s disease and has faced various health issues, including battles with pneumonia, in the past. His daughter, Shirley Harris, 62, said her father is confused about the restricted family visits. 

“He was not used to it,” Harris said. “I would try to call him on the phone, and he was going, ‘Why aren’t you coming to visit me?’ And he can’t hear very well, especially over the phone, and I kept trying to explain to him what was going on.” With Journagan’s Alzheimer’s disease, the explanations don’t stick for long: “You can tell him one thing and the next day he forgets it,” she said.

Journagan has become more confused and is becoming physically weak as the pandemic grinds on. Harris thinks these trends were accelerated due to lack of mental stimulation caused by limited contact with the family, she said.  
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[/et_pb_text][et_pb_text admin_label=”Journagan Text” _builder_version=”4.6.1″ _module_preset=”default”]“My son and his other grandson would come and see him,” Harris said. “They were allowing people on each side of the window, and he could not understand why they would not let them in. He kept saying, ‘Let him in, let him in!’”  

Harris received a worrying call from Hillcrest Home at the end of March. Journagan wasn’t eating and had lost a significant amount of weight during the weeks when family visits were prohibited. Hillcrest Home staff asked Harris to come into a back room of the facility for short visits, wearing full protective gear, to feed Journagan and help him gain weight. 
[/et_pb_text][et_pb_text admin_label=”Final Graphs Text” _builder_version=”4.6.1″ _module_preset=”default”]Harris, while upset at her father’s condition, doesn’t blame nursing homes for the policy changes. Without these restrictions, she said, more residents would have died because of COVID-19.

 Julia Beldyga, 48, assistant administrator at Jamestown Nursing and Rehab, said family members must wear masks, undergo screenings, wear personal protective equipment, and be accompanied by a staff member during family visitation, all of which are state requirements were drafted to prevent spread of the virus. Residents also are visiting with loved ones via iPad or through facility windows. The lack of contact and infrequency of the visits is traumatic for the residents.

“I don’t want to imagine my loved ones here never being able to touch their loved ones again,” Beldyga said. “That would be my biggest worry, is that they can’t ever be able to touch their son, daughter, aunt, whoever again.” 

Although  she has seen a decline in the mental health of some of her residents, Beldyga said she doesn’t believe this has led to any premature deaths. According to the Arkansas Department of Health, there have been 5,588 resident COVID-19 confirmed infections in Arkansas through Nov. 6, and 890 residents have died.

Price-Bateson misses his husband, Connerley misses her grandchild, Harris misses her “daddy” and Beldyga misses seeing her residents hug their family members. For residents and staff alike, COVID-19 does not discriminate.

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[/et_pb_text][et_pb_text admin_label=”Alexus Underwood credit” _builder_version=”4.6.1″ _module_preset=”default”]Alexus Underwood is a senior journalism student at the University of Arkansas, she is studying for a news/editorial focused degree.
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Rob Wells

Rob Wells, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Journalism at the University of Arkansas School of Journalism and Strategic Media.

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