Note: any information shared in this article is true as of time of publication. Anything may change at any time regarding the status of Coronavirus cases.
Here in Boulder City, all things considered to date, we are very lucky so far in terms of the local spread of positive cases for the coronavirus. Most especially when it comes to the state of our nursing homes, long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities here in town.
As of this writing, ALL of them are currently free of coronavirus cases, and the Southern Nevada Veterans Home, as of last Friday, can say all of their most recent cases have now recovered for both the residents and the staff!
In creating this article, we spoke to the Directors or Administrators at all four of our local centers for the elderly: Lakeview Terrace, The Homestead of Boulder City, the Southern Nevada State Veterans Home, and the Mountain View Care Center. Candidly, compiling this information has been a journey – initially one of good news in that our centers for the elderly in town have remained so healthy. However lying beneath that good news is another story to tell: one of isolation, loneliness and the need to remember our seasoned citizens in Boulder City.
I started this article because at one point, I heard a news story saying that as many as 40% of deaths in the state of California had been attributed to deaths in nursing and assisted living facilities. That’s a startling statistic. But as seems my daily struggle to find accurate news and information, I’ve not been able to personally verify that. But it nonetheless struck me to ask by comparison how we were faring in Boulder City? And even with the two outbreaks at the Veterans Home, the answer is that so far (quickly knock wood, say a prayer, whatever…I’m not above superstition!) none of our other senior care centers have had ANY cases of Covid-19. (For those interested HERE is a recent article on the topic of nursing homes in the sunbelt areas from the Wall Street Journal.)
Our Veterans Home is by far the largest facility, housing 150 residents and another 167 staff members. The new Administrator, Eli Quinones, who is a delightful man with over 35 years experience in running nursing home care facilities, says that “the support we have received from the State is amazing, and I’m so proud of the staff and the way they have handled these challenges.” He tells us that each and every resident and staff member is tested for Covid-19 weekly.
The other facilities in town tell us a similar story: staff members are screened daily as they come to work, tests are available on demand, and no new team members are allowed into the facility to prevent additional exposure. But this creates a burden on the staff that is similar to what most health care workers and first responders everywhere, are dealing with. They must leave their place of employment and go straight home. Uniforms are removed when they go home and must be washed daily. No running errands after work on your way home – that becomes a point of exposure. Outside nursing and some hospice care has also been suspended in both the Mountain View Care Center, as well as at Lakeview Terrace. Which means then those staff members are doing even more work than normal.
And here is where this story changes: these stresses on the staff and administrators alike are starting to take a toll on them physically and emotionally. But that is only half of the story – the residents who are all in the higher-risk categories for Covid-19 remain isolated, even from each other.
As of this publication date, the residents in 3 of the 4 care centers in Boulder City are still completely home-bound within their rooms. They must take their meals there and can be escorted on a walk around their grounds, but that is it. No group activities or group dining are held and they are not allowed to leave the facility – if they do, then that is a permanent move. Visitations until very recently have been remote only. Within the past two weeks or so, the facilities are allowing distanced outdoor visits with family members. But this is recent.
The Homestead of Boulder City is the smallest population of our senior care centers, with currently 47 residents and 38 staff members. This one facility is unique in that as of last week, they have started to allow a few classes and group activities to resume, in groups of 10, socially distanced residents. Pamela Noonan, the Administrator, tells us that has been a HUGE morale booster for their residents. She emphasizes that their parent organization, Volunteers of America runs 44 different facilities across a wide variety of states, so they are following directives from both the state and their central offices.
Mary Rush, the Administrator at Lakeview Terrace tells us that they have been working to have families come and visit outside with their loved ones in their seating areas. On the lower level, which is their memory care unit, families can visit through their screen windows. Currently they have about 60 residents. When I asked about the pen pal project that got recent press, if that was still going and viable, she said people were still writing in, but that it was getting challenging to keep the residents engaged and responding back. She says, “we’re glad the sheep are back and we do have a wonderful view of the lake! But it’s challenging, every day I go home and I ask myself, did I do enough?”
I checked in with Mountain View Care Center’s Administrator, Laurie Hassen and we spoke about the delight the residents received when a few months ago the drive-by parade was done for them. She said that gave the residents such a boost, and she and the staff were so gratified by that show of support. She says the residents use Facetime to stay in touch with loved ones, and visitors have also been able to come to their windows and see one another. She says they feel so lucky that so far all 81 residents and the staff who care for them have remained Covid-free.
We do need our economy to stay open and to survive. We really do. But sit and think about this – if you’re one of these lovely elderly folks, you still want to be vital, valued, and enjoying life to the fullest possible. If you have a family member who is a resident of one of these homes, you want them kept safe and cared for, but also as active and involved in their own lives as they can be.
Since late March, for nearly four months now, the residents’ only view is of the same four walls of their rooms. I for one can’t imagine it. And as we get on with our lives, what I could hear in each and every one of these administrators and caregivers I spoke to is the concern for their charges mental and emotional well-being. Their concern was palatable even over the phone. And trust me – in no way am I being critical of these Administrators – they are doing their very, very best to manage many concerns in what are extremely challenging circumstances. Likewise, most of these guidelines are set by the State, who is also trying to deal with the paramount concerns for public health, and the consistent uptick in the number of cases in Nevada isn’t helping. Let’s face it – this situation sucks.
My father is gone now for 16 years and my mother died in 2017. I have thanked God every single day that my mother, who’s advanced Parkinson’s and dementia had become meaningful in her last years, is not here to see this. It would have been so incredibly hard to manage her care and her fear as well as her caregivers during this pandemic.
We are so lucky that within our community we have professionals and great facilities and staff to care for our local seniors. Thank them when you see them, and please let’s remember to do our part and not forget our seniors, who are living, breathing and walking history here in town. They are our teachers and parents, Veterans and friends, people of all walks of life, and have so many stories to tell. They’ve done their jobs, and now deserve our care in return.