Casualties of COVID

     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

Nursing home window visits.

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.  

Clinic Issues During COVID-19

     During the COVID crisis, what were clinics and their patients going through? Looking from the inside out helps everyone see what the staff were going through.

     Sitting down with a clinic supervisor can answer some of the issues the staff were facing. Clinic supervisor Leah Torgerson shared, “We were so confused because no protocols were in place when it all started. We had to make them up as we went along. Who were we going to see at the clinics or the hospitals? We had protective equipment, but those ran out quickly. Our suppliers were deluged with requests, so getting more supplies became an immediate problem.” These were some of the problems that the local clinics were facing.

Clinic lines, 2021.

     Administrators started to react to the virus when they realized that they were dealing with an epidemic. Torgerson went on to say, “The health care organization that runs our clinic met with all supervisors to consolidate services, which meant closing some of the clinics and directing our patients to hospitals and to certain clinics that remained open. This meant that some of our non-medical staff were furloughed for a time and an overload of work for the medical teams. Although it seemed like a good idea at first to furlough non-medical staff, it turned into a paperwork nightmare shortly after it was implemented because medical staff spent a great deal of their time filling out medical and insurance paperwork. Along with the normal paperwork, the government wanted additional paperwork, completed with each suspected and actual case of COVID. “Along with the COVID caseload, what happened to the normal medical cases that clinics handle? That part of the COVID crisis went largely ignored. Patients with other non-emergency medical appointments were told to wait until clinics could catch up with the unexpected overload of COVID appointments. “We really worried about our regular patients during the crisis. When we realized that COVID was not going to be an overnight cure, we decided to reach out to our regular patients to make sure that their ongoing medical issues were not becoming more serious issues,” Torgerson said.

     Clinic patient Teri Ward shared, “I really began to worry about my ongoing medical issues during the COVID crisis. Getting the COVID virus worried me a lot because I have many of the medical conditions that put me in the high-risk categories. But beyond the fear of COVID was my ongoing medical issues. I was having a difficult time getting an appointment for my health issues. It wasn’t until many of the COVID protocols were in place that I was able to see my doctors for my existing medical issues. That took away a lot of the stress that I had during COVID.”

     Everyone has been dealing with the stress of COVID but those with existing medical conditions have had to be concerned with contracting the COVID virus as well as the lack of attention to their existing medical conditions.

Spring Break 2021: Yes or No?

     Spring Break has been a spring ritual since 1938. Spring break became really big in the 1960s

and continues today. But things are different this year because of COVID. So, what’s a body to do if you want to continue the ritual?

     First, be careful who you hang around with. Everyone in your group should be tested before you leave. That’s what Will Haggenmiller, a junior at Minnesota State University Mankato, did. “My roommates and I went down as a group of five to make sure we had a social group to hang out with.”

     Second, continue to wear your masks. Masks are for your protection and for the protection of

others.

     Third, bring your own hand sanitizer. Yes, it may seem bulky to walk around with your bottle of hand sanitizer. You can put it in a small bottle and leave the big bottle in your hotel room. Make sure to use it generously. Ericka, Will’s mother, said, “I bought the boys a one gallon bottle of hand sanitizer and five little refill bottles that fit in their pockets.”

     Fourth, wash, wash, wash your hands. Get rid of those nasty germs from your hands.

     Fifth and final, check the location that you have chosen for their current COVID restrictions, their vaccine rates and their current infection rates. Parent Ericka Haggenmiller said, “When our son Will said that he wanted to go on spring break, we sat down with him and his friends and reviewed different destination sites. Together we thought that Texas was a good choice for the group.”

Galveston Island, spring break.

     When the group returned, Will sat down with his parents to find out how things had gone on their vacation. “We had a great time. Sitting down and discussing the protocols that had to be taken to keep us safe really helped us have fun. We stayed together as a group, which is always fun. We wore our masks, which has become common at home as well as the hand washing. The hand sanitizer worked because we drove. I think if we had flown we would have had to buy those supplies when we got there.”

     Looking back, did the guys still think that their choice of Texas was a good one?  Will said, “That choice really worked out well. The place was beautiful, the people were very friendly and the food was great. It was really a good idea to plan ahead, because then we could just focus on having fun.”

     Will following these guidelines work for everyone? The answer would be “no.” With all the research that is being done to figure out the virus, all that can be said is follow the precautions the best that you can in order to avoid it.