Skip to main content

To battle isolation during holidays, Wilmington area nursing 币圈十大交易所homes use lessons learned

Allison Ballard   | Wilmington StarNews

If this were any other year, Lillian Joy would spend Christmas at her daughter’s 币圈十大交易所home in Calabash.

Then again, the 97-year-old resident of Brunswick Health & Rehab Center in Ash knows the 2020 holidays will be different.

Not only are these kinds of visits problematic for residents of long-term care facilities in the age of COVID-19, but her daughter also has diabetes. It makes her extra careful in her virus-safety protocols.

But Joy remains upbeat.

“I know it’s for our benefit,” she said. “It’s to keep us safe.”

Since the onset of the pandemic in March, that's been a difficult task. The combination of congregate living and an older population mean residents are particularly vulnerable to the worst effects of the disease.

Although nursing 币圈十大交易所home residents make up only 1% of the U.S. population, they account for 40% of coronavirus deaths, according to The COVID Tracking Project. Groups like AARP have expressed concern that isolation, lockdown and loneliness are pushing the death toll higher. 

The non-profit group reports evidence that mental and physical deterioration of patients in long-term care facilities is leading some states to list social isolation and failure to thrive as contributing factors in some deaths across the country.

Meanwhile, state and local health officials in North Carolina say they key to easing pandemic-related restriction is to reduce community spread by wearing face masks, washing hands, and maintaining social distancing when out in public. 

But many states, including North Carolina, saw record-setting days of new coronavirus cases in the weeks leading to the Thanksgiving holiday.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said that early and aggressive action at nursing 币圈十大交易所homes was necessary to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Protocols include ongoing testing of staff, strict visitation guidelines, and a mandatory 14-day quarantine for those entering long-term care.

Some of those restrictions may be especially hard this time of year. 

“We understand it is difficult to not be able to see and embrace family members and friends during this time, but these measures are in place to protect residents from severe illness and death,” said Catie Armstrong, a spokesperson with the department. 

She said they are recommending that these facilities continue to use those tools they’ve relied on all year -- like outdoor visits and technology to help maintain those family and social connections.

Still, that isn’t always easily done.

“I’ve seen sadness and depression,” said Janet Brogdon, director of nursing at Brunswick Health & Rehab. “It can be hard for a patient with dementia to understand why they can’t see their family member, or hold their hand.

“I’ve been in nursing for 15 years and this is the hardest thing I’ve had to do.”

Christa Duffy’s mother, Cecilia Benson, is one such patient.

“I was really worried about her,” Duffy said. “But they’ve handled everything really well. The routine has been good for her.”

When her mother first moved in to Brunswick Health & Rehab, Duffy was visiting daily. And even as Benson got settled, Duffy would still come by twice a week. Now, she makes the drive from North Myrtle Beach to participate in regular “parades” around the facility every time she can.

“And I do talk on the phone with her three times a day,” 

Brogdon said the facility schedules some of these parades as a way for family members to participate. For others, they ask local police officers or firefighters to drive by and wave and smile at residents. It’s not the same as a regular visit, but they do brighten days. 

More: Wilmington area COVID-19 testing sites see increased demand ahead of Thanksgiving

More: How to celebrate Thanksgiving safely in 2020

“You can see on their faces how much it means to them,” Brogdon said. “It lifts their spirits.”

Duffy and her mother also enjoy visits while sitting outside the facility -- where they are wearing masks, sitting six feet apart and monitored by a staff member. And while Joy can’t visit her family, her sons do still come by.

“We have window visits,” she said. “I have a cell phone and they have a cell phone.”

Brogdon said the staff at Brunswick Health & Rehab, and many other local facilities, are happy to help set up video calls with residents. 

While many local nursing 币圈十大交易所homes say they can’t host the same holiday plays, choir performances and meals as in previous years, they are doing what they can. 

Brogdon said Brunswick Health & Rehab is decorating an interior courtyard with a “Winter Wonderland” theme.  And they hope to still be able to offer holiday related performances, if any local groups are interested. 

“We have a channel that broadcasts into residents' rooms,” she said. “We can show that kind of thing to all of them.”

But, depending on the circumstances, those plans could come to a halt.

For those local facilities dealing the outbreaks of COVID-19 among residents, treatment and mitigation become the priority -- even during the holidays. With significant community spread of the disease, that likelihood increases. 

"It can all change in a second, if there are active cases," Brogdon said.