They Are All Heroes

Angie SzumlinskiHealth, Studies

Vitas Healthcare, a hospice provider in 14 states and the District of Columbia, has created occasional “virtual blessing services” on Zoom for staff at nursing homes and assisted living centers. “We thank them for their service and a chaplain gives words of encouragement” said Robin Fiorelli, Vitas’ senior director of bereavement and volunteers. They have also been holding virtual memorials via Zoom to recognize residents who’ve died of COVID-19. “A big part of that service is giving other residents an opportunity to share their memories ad honor those they’ve lost” Fiorelli said.

On December 6, Hospice Savannah is planning an online broadcast of its annual national “Tree of Light” memorial with grief counselors who will offer healing strategies. During the service, candles will be lit and a moment of silence observed in remembrance of people who’ve died.

There is a “desperate need for psychological services” said Toni Miles, a professor at the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health and an expert on grief and bereavement I long-term care settings. She’s created two guides to help grieving staffers and residents and is distributing them digitally to more than 400 nursing homes and 1000 assisted living centers in the state. Fewer than half of nursing home staffers have health insurance and those who do typically don’t have “minimal” access to mental health services said David Grabowski, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School who has published several studies on this topic. “There’s a real fragility right now on the part of the workforce.”

Please remember your staff; they may seem tough on the outside but may actually be like mush on the inside. Talk to them, love them up (from 6 feet away), and provide employee assistance with mental health services if needed. We aren’t done yet I’m afraid but we can try to make it a less challenging journey!

Stay the course, stay strong, stay well, mask up and stay tuned!