LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The men and women working inside long-term care facilities are facing unique challenges during COVID-19. Working day in and day out with the most vulnerable population, they say they are working hard to keep a positive attitude even on the hard days.
Laughter makes the mood a little lighter at Masonic Homes Kentucky, where the staff is making a point to bring bright moments to every day.
"I'm very proud to be a nurse, I'm very proud to work here”, Jessica Vest said, “It's a scary situation, this virus. It’s scary so we have staff that get uneasy or scared or resident's families. We try to give them factual information, we try to take a breath and stay calm and understand that we'll get through this."
COVID-19 has brought concerns to almost every industry but in this world, there is no work from home.
Vest explained, "it takes a lot of energy and it takes its toll emotionally going through all of this."
Long-term care facilities in Kentucky have been some of the hardest hit. The numbers are nearing 900 residents and 350 staff with the virus. Even for facilities accustomed to facing the facts of life, the more than 150 total deaths have taken a toll.
"Some people are very scared, they're scared for themselves, the staff members, they're scared to take it home to their families,” Director of Nursing at Masonic Homes Kentucky, Kendall Stratton, said.
Stratton has worked in long-term care her entire career. She is also a certified infection control specialist and describes the scary moments inside her facility when staff observe symptoms of what could be COVID-19.
"You get that first temperature or you get that first cough- you know, the uncertainty of knowing is this something to be concerned about. So knowing the difference and being able to identify that and respond to that quickly- it takes every team member”, Stratton said.
Knowing how hard her team is working encourages her to work hard to keep up their morale. "We have to be very creative and think outside the box and to keep everyone's spirits up."
She describes it as a balancing act- finding good even in the hard days, the days she knows goodbyes are inevitable.
"For me personally, I feel very privileged to be part of that milestone in someone's life. I'm privileged to have those final days and those thoughts with the family, with the patient that you spend so much time with, it’s just meaningful to be a part of that,” Stratton said.
The nursing team at these facilities say they need help now more than ever before and want to encourage those considering the field to reach out and learn more. Find more information here.