Nursing home workers are a different breed.
“When you work in a nursing home, you have to want to come to work,” said Brenda Workman, activities director at Lexington Court Care Center.
Last year, however, was far from normal.
“There were a lot of days you didn’t want to come to work,” Workman said of the COVID-19 pandemic, which possibly hit nursing home residents and staff as hard as any other group.
At Lexington Court Care Center, at least 14 residents have passed away from the coronavirus.
“We had a small service for staff and residents to remember them,” Workman said. “It was horrible. We’re hoping we don’t have to do that again.”
She said the Lexington facility was hit especially hard in December.
“Each week, there’d be more people,” Workman said. “Christmas was not a good time.”
Through a Facebook campaign, the Lexington community did lift spirits at the nursing home by getting presents for each resident.
There were a lot of donations.
“A lot of them got to open presents a week or two after Christmas,” Workman said.
The residents needed something to boost their morale. Workman said if there were any positive cases at the facility, residents had to stay in their rooms.
“They probably spent more time in their room than out of it,” she said of 2020.
Contributing to their isolation was a no-visitation policy implemented by the state. Lexington Court Care Center allowed visitors only in extreme cases, such as end of life, for most of last year.
As more people get vaccinations, conditions are improving for the 52 residents. Workman said they are mostly able to do full physical therapy again. Activities are back, too, while social distancing is observed.
New residents are quarantined for 14 days.
Liberty Nursing Center on Lexington Avenue was one of the first area facilities to be impacted by the pandemic.
“We had to learn and do things on our own,” administrator Cathy Rox said.
So far, 25 residents and 18 staff have tested positive for COVID-19. Four residents have died.
Rox recognized Liberty’s dedicated employees.
“They put in so many hours filling in for the staff who were off,” she said. “Staff would come in during the middle of the night.”
Crystal Eyerly, a licensed practical nurse and infection control preventionist at Liberty, echoed those sentiments.
“Perseverance is the word that comes to mind for me,” she said. “It was difficult. It was emotional. There were days without rest.”
Latonda Williams is the director of operations at Liberty. She said the staff would celebrate “little milestones” while realizing the challenges for residents.
“It was extremely difficult,” she said. “Can you imagine not being about to hug your children? Can you imagine not being able to see your mom and dad?”
Most nursing homes dealt with similar situations, which helped form a community of sorts.
“We’ve been a big support to each other,” Rox said. “It wasn’t just our facility. It was about our community as a whole.”
Liberty took on added responsibilities as one of the few state-certified COVID units.
“We took patients from assisted living and from out of county,” Rox said. Liberty currently has a resident count in the mid 50s.
She said a large percentage of staff members has gotten vaccinated.
“I wish everyone would have gotten a vaccination, but we had quite a few,” she said.
Workman is speaking for many nursing home employees when she says she is hoping the worst is behind them.
“I know a couple of employees that if it happens again, they won’t stay,” she said. “They won’t do it again.”