The children of Arlene O’Neill wish to thank the staff of Samaritan Keep Home for the heroic work they continue to do under very difficult circumstances. Providing a high level of physical and emotional care for disabled and aging bodies is a challenge under the best of circumstances, but doing so through a relentless pandemic is especially so.
Samaritan Keep Home, like all congregate care settings, constantly wrestles with trying to control outbreaks of this highly contagious virus. The institution, like the frantic plate spinners on the old Ed Sullivan show, tries to protect residents and staff amidst the competing and often contradictory demands of Medicaid, state regulations, CDC guidelines, vaccination controversies, family demands, onerous visitation precautions, COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.
And it is the staff on the front lines, bearing the brunt of it all: long, physically demanding shifts, the strain of hours of communicating with each other and residents through stifling face masks, increasing duties due to a dwindling workforce, special precautions and changing assignments for the increasing number of infected residents. It is too often a thankless job in the best of times, but there is another massive demand since COVID that needs to be appreciated, i.e., filling the emotional gap for residents during the long stretches when visitors are prohibited altogether.
Families and friends of residents remember the frustrations during that first whole year of going without physical contact: of the difficulties of phone conversations (due to hearing loss, dementia, disabilities); of not being able to give and receive reassurances that come with a hug or a held hand; or of not being able to be with a loved one when they pass. All of these additional roles and emotional needs that, before COVID, were met by families and friends — they have now fallen on the already burdened shoulders of frontline staff.
We thought it important to publicly thank Samaritan Keep Home staff who continue to care for residents under extremely difficult conditions.
Teresa O’Neill Romeo