All of us have had to make adjustments and sacrifices during the last year because of the COVID-19 virus. No one has had to do this more than those in assisted living facilities. For much of the last year, they have been quarantined in their facilities with limited human contact. Most of their human contact was with the people who work in those facilities. So how was it for the people who work in assisted living facilities?
“We had no idea what we were in for,” Sharon Wills, a licensed practical nurse who has
worked in assisted living facilities for the last 30 years, said. “When all of the restrictions hit, we had to set up a new way of doing things.” No one had ever had to deal with something like this, where everyone had to be kept from everyone else.
So what had to be done to handle COVID-19 because the elderly were the most likely to die from the virus? According to Wills, “First, we had to keep everyone isolated as much as possible. We cancelled all social activities such as dining, church, crafts, social hour and visits. We also had to keep our staff safe by doing as much testing as possible to ensure that our residents would be safe. We kept hoping that things would end quickly. But as time went on, we realized that was not going to happen. We knew that we were going to have to fill the holes somehow. We encouraged family to call their loved ones as much as possible. Then we allowed window visits when weather permitted. And then as staff we visited more with the residents than before the virus. All of this helped, but we knew it was never going to be the same as family visits.”
On Oct. 1, 2020, Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota opened visits for assisted living facilities
in Minnesota. “Thank the Good Lord above!” was all assisted living resident Winifred Kunst could say when her family was able to visit again. “I went so long without seeing my children and grandchildren that I had to think hard to remember what everyone looked like when I saw them again.”
Jan. 10, 2021, Winifred’s 96th birthday, she tested positive for COVID-19. This led to another two weeks of quarantine. Winifred came through healthier than ever. “I have lived through two world wars, the birth of my four children, the death of all my brothers and sisters and the death of my husband. But going through this COVID was in many ways harder because I did not have my family with me.”
Family time was one of the biggest casualties of COVID.