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My Turn, Shari Keller: Give thanks to forgotten front line

Columnist

Shari Keller

By Shari Keller

As COVID-19 impacts our daily life and our local economy, it reaches the most vulnerable — our seniors.

How do we as loved ones, family and friends, reach out to those most dear to us residing in healthcare facilities? Prior to COVID-19, we entrusted their care to many unknown faces, never anticipating an unseen enemy would forever change life as we knew it. These dedicated workers have stepped up to an unimaginable front line.

Caregivers in Nursing Homes and Assisted Livings have one of the hardest jobs in healthcare, physically and mentally. Nationwide, nursing homes have experienced staffing shortages for many years. COVID-19 has drastically escalated these numbers.

I speak to this from personal experience as a retired registered nurse. During this time of uncertainty, these caregivers not only deal with the normalcy of their jobs. They face the fears and confusion of many residents, some due to masks and protective gowns. For all, there is the heightened emotional stress of residents and family members being unable to see each other.

No matter their job title, in some capacity, they have all become caregivers for someone’s family. Yet, they are thanked very little for giving so much of themselves with the risk of contracting the virus and exposing their own families. It is my goal that we, as a community, support these warriors who do not go home for 16 or more hours many times. Yet, they return day after day because this is what they do. They are caregivers!

How can we say “thank you for being there,” “thank you for showing up when you are already exhausted, and “thank you for putting self aside to be there for our loved ones?”

Providing a meal they did not have time to prepare for themselves is one way to not only show we appreciate their caring for those who cannot care for themselves.

So much has been done to show appreciation or our nurses and doctors on the frontlines in hospitals locally and across the nation. They are on the front lines of acute care and are most deserving. 

The sad part is that people have forgotten acute care is to treat and get an individual past the stages of acuity, discharging the patient home or otherwise to a rehab/nursing facility. The employees in those facilities, meaning all levels of staffing, become caregivers in some capacity as they receive these patients for short or, in many instances, long term care. They are the forgotten front line. 

To help thank our longterm caregivers I’ve created the FOCUS: Feeding Our Caregivers Under Stress, with the goal of buying meals prepared by local restaurants and caterers. Our goal is to provide meals at lunchtime or supper, covering two shifts of caregivers, initially at our nursing facilities with identified outbreaks of COVID-19, then expanding to additional local facilities as funds will allow.

Follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/FOCUSCovid19

Contact us at: focuscovid19@gmail.com

Shari Keller is a retired registered nurse in Salisbury.

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