HARTFORD (March 13, 2021) – By MAG MORELLI AND MATT BARRETT – HARTFORD COURANT
This week marks the one-year anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was year in which we all were thrown into a once-in-a-lifetime crisis that targeted our elderly and medically vulnerable and brought a level of disruption and suffering not seen in a century. To so many who spend their days and nights caring for Connecticut’s seniors, it seems like only yesterday that COVID-19 entered our lives and tightened its relentless grip.
Yet here we are, and one year later the work continues at Connecticut’s nursing homes and senior communities. It has been a year of fighting the unknown while rapidly learning as science and medicine raced to find answers. A year of isolation and heartbreaking loss. But also one filled with countless acts of selflessness and heroism carried out by those at the center of the storm. And now, after enduring this unprecedented year, managing through it to the very best of our abilities and finally emerging from it, we are not just one year older. We are one year stronger.
We who work at Connecticut’s nursing homes are stronger in our relentless focus on our mission of providing a safe, loving and home-like environment for those in our care.
We are stronger because of the resilience shown by every staff member of our communities, and every amazing resident and every family member. Their dogged determination saw us through and gave hope to so many who felt so hopeless at the outset.
We are stronger because of the impressive response that our nursing homes and senior living communities have had to the vaccine, with residents and staff alike recognizing the critical importance of this moment and stepping forward to do their part.
We are stronger for finding new and innovative ways for our residents to remain close to their loved ones, from virtual visits to outside get-togethers to compassionate care to end-of-life comfort. The loneliness that set in at the very beginning was very real for so many residents, but the creativity and support shown throughout the year by dedicated staff and family members have been inspiring, and they made all the difference. We look forward to the day when we can keep the doors wide open and families can once again embrace. That day is near.
We are stronger as partners. COVID-19 showed us that nursing homes and senior communities can indeed work together as a network and collaborate closely with state and federal health officials. The information came at all of us fast and furiously at the outset, with the playing field often changing dramatically from one day to the next. We worked together, we shared best practices and we adhered to strict guidelines. We got stronger and more educated on the disease as we worked collectively.
And we are stronger by reaffirming the critically important role of nursing homes in our health care system. Now is the time to recognize this and improve nursing homes — improve how we serve and how nursing homes are paid, regulated and staffed. Together, nursing homes, government leaders and other stakeholders must reimagine the future for these critical-care providers for older Americans and their families.
Nursing homes saw far too much loss this year due to a merciless and invisible enemy. At times it was hard to keep moving. The emotional, exhaustive toll this took on nursing home residents, staff and families cannot be overstated.
Still, shaken but resilient, this community has endured, has managed and now has emerged more committed than ever to our mission of serving and honoring the older adults in our care. And ready to move together into the hopefulness of a post-COVID-19 future.
That is what one year stronger means. And that is exactly what we are today.
Mag Morelli is president of LeadingAge Connecticut, which advocates for nursing homes and senior community providers. Matt Barrett is president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities and the Connecticut Center for Assisted Living.