Susan Tahaney, a social worker, went to work on Thanksgiving Day at Nazareth Home to help residents connect with their families using an iPad and a TV screen.
As she pulled into the parking lot at the Highland campus, a stranger stood silently on the asphalt, holding up a sign saying, “You are loved.”
As she recounted this story on May 27, Tahaney removed her glasses and wiped the tears from her smiling eyes.
“It was like a web of support,” she said, sniffing her emotion so she could speak.
The fine silk of a spider becomes stronger when woven into the layers of a web, she explained.
“I’ve only been here a year and a half,” she said. “I don’t know what the good times look like at Nazareth Home. I came two weeks before closing.
But she believes the facility and the surrounding community provide “a support network” for staff and residents.
Both Nazareth Home campuses, like the rest of Kentucky, were closed in March of last year. But as most people were gradually locked in, residents of long-term care facilities were suddenly completely isolated from the outside world. The staff who worked there became their lifeline.
In March, restrictions on long-term care facilities began to be lifted and access is now possible with some precautions.
Tahaney, the home’s program director, shared her story of the Nazareth home lockdown during a discussion on May 27. She was joined by Father Albert Wilson, a resident; President and CEO Mary Haynes; Jason Rader, Environmental Services Supervisor; and Sister of Charity of Nazareth Sharon Gray, vice-provincial of the congregation who lives on campus.
The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth founded and still sponsor Nazareth Home Highlands and Nazareth Home Clifton. Together, the facilities have approximately 290 beds. Homes offer a variety of services, including personal care for those who live independently but require on-site care, services for those with memory impairment, specialist long-term care, and counseling services. rehabilitation.
The Lord will see me through
Father Wilson, who served as a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville for 70 years, said he learned to adapt to difficulties during his 94 years of life.
“I didn’t like the idea of wearing a mask and being restricted, but that was the nature of the weather,” he said of the lockdown. “I remember the 1937 flood. As you grow up, you learn to adapt to a lot of things. We are so often affected by change that you make it a habit.
It helps, he said, to be with the people at Nazareth Home.
“People are always very good here. The staff are like family and we are family as residents, ”he said.
For Father Wilson, who served as pastor in several parishes before retiring in 1996, confinement provided time for contemplation.
“I had time for prayer, basically,” he said. “And a lot of reading.”
When asked how he copes with loneliness, he replied:
“It goes back to Cardinal (John Henry) Newman. The Lord has given me a task that he has not given to another, and he will bring me to fruition. It was kind of a guide for me.
In it together
Her example and that of other residents have helped staff cope so they can focus on their jobs, several staff said.
“Our elders have had so many experiences,” Tahaney said. “They’ve been through wars. They helped us through. It’s really beautiful.”
As residents were in isolation, staff stepped up to do whatever it took to help them adjust, said Mary Haynes, administrator. Standard staff hours are a thing of the past.
“Susan came on vacation to make sure residents can see their families” on virtual platforms.
Jason Rader, Environmental Services Supervisor, said: “We were definitely in the same boat. You didn’t know when you were going to leave work.
His department – and others like this in healthcare facilities – are among the unsung heroes of the pandemic, Haynes noted. They are particularly responsible for cleaning.
“I was scared,” Rader said. “But I didn’t show it.”
“In the beginning, whenever we had to do a deep clean, I did it with them (his staff). And I think it created trust. This team is amazing. They are reliable and good people.
Rader noted that no one in his department had quit during the pandemic, a feat given they were so concerned about their safety.
Haynes added, “We all felt like a community.”
Creativity to last
The creative use of technology that connects families with residents instead of regular visits during the lockdown has also helped a resident ‘attend’ a baby shower in a different state. Another resident connected with her sister for the first time in 25 years.
“The look of pure joy appeared on their faces” when residents saw their loved ones on the television screen, Tahaney said. “And it was so easy to do.”
The technology has even been used for bedside vigils for a dying resident and the family is living out of state.
“We would never have thought of doing this” before the pandemic, she noted. “Now we’re so good at having all kinds of meaningful and rich visits all over the world.”
Nazareth Home intends to continue using these tools, she added.
When the pandemic started and she saw what was to come, Haynes said, “I was 100% sure that I was going to be with people who were going to support me, support each other.”
For example, she said, “Jason gave the nursing team peace of mind” with environmental services. “They didn’t have to ask him. He learned what they needed.
“We saw the resilience,” said Haynes.
“I’m saying I’m in the business of peace of mind,” she said, noting that she had worked with people in dementia care before. She has seen how difficult it can be to leave a loved one in the care of others, she said.
“Everything we do is designed to try to avoid this worry,” she said. The goal is to bring peace of mind to the residents and their families, as well as the staff of the house.
Sister Sharon Gray, who resides on campus but is vice-provincial of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, said she had observed the work of Nazareth Home over the past year and was encouraged by what ‘she had seen.
“You were visibly tired,” she told staff during the discussion. “You walked a little slower, but the smiles were still there. “
Nazareth Home currently has openings. For more information, call 502-459-9681.