Changing atmosphere at LifeCare that a mask can’t hide
In spring 2020, about March 2020, life for the residents and staff at LifeCare Greenbush Manor would change dramatically.
The facility was beginning to go into lockdown due to COVID-19. Residents were segregated to their rooms and apartments, could have no outside visitors, and everyone began to wear masks. No communal dining or activities could take place. Residents could leave for only medical-related appointments.
“Why does that seem like so long ago? It really wasn’t that long,” said, Lynsey Dvergsten, Registered Nurse in the Assisted Living wing at LifeCare Greenbush Manor.
Dvergsten described this time period as a somber one for both residents and staff.
“It was quiet, but yet they were nervous and scared of the unknown and what was going to happen and how long it was going to last,” Dvergsten said. “… It was lonely, definitely… For the first month, it wasn’t so bad, but then it kind of just got (to be a) long, long summer for them.”
LifeCare residents and staff are beginning to see that light to normalcy— starting with the administering of vaccines in late December, right after Christmas, to March with the facility loosening up on some of its restrictions in several ways.
Dvergsten and Shannon Carlson, LifeCare Chief Operating Officer and Administrator for both the Roseau and Greenbush Manor, discussed LifeCare’s regulations and environment through COVID, its gradual lessening of restrictions and the response to it all.
Carlson seconded much of what Dvergsten said related to the facility’s atmosphere once COVID hit. He highlighted that fear of the unknown, not knowing what COVID’s impact on this area would be. Everyone had much on their minds in the early stages in spring 2020.
“It just started hitting seriously then on the East Coast, and we saw some of the devastating effects of what was going on out there.” Carlson said. “And, I think we were all wondering, ‘When is this wave going to hit us?’ And when it does, what does it mean from the effects that it’s going to have on our residents to the effects it’s going to have on our staff, and their families and truly… our own personal families as well?”
Carlson could not compliment the work of a “dedicated’ and “loyal” Greenbush Manor staff enough for the care they provided to the residents through this period. Due to residents being unable to do group activities, staff made sure these residents were still getting some social interaction.
“When they showed up to work, they were focused on caring for our residents, and our staff went out of their way to try and help our residents during those isolation times,” Carlson said. “They would specifically try to go in and have a conversation with the residents.”
Staff members provided this care even as they had their own worries on their minds.
“All the way through even the darkest days, our staff still showed up and provided that vital care,” Carlson said. “And you couldn’t see their smile underneath their masks, but they still did it with a smile and kept doing it.”
Carlson wanted to acknowledge the great leadership Loralee Waage, Greenbush Director of Nursing, has provided during this very challenging time.
“She had to enforce difficult decisions and stood with her staff through it all,” Carlson said.
Through those dark days of COVID, the facility did have positive cases. The assisted living side didn’t have as many cases as the nursing home side. Due to this lower number and the residents in assisted living being more independent, LifeCare’s ability to deal with the cases on its assisted living side was a little more manageable compared to the nursing home side.
“They (assisted living residents) could be isolated to their apartment,” Carlson said, “and then we would obviously deliver the meals and provide the care to them in their individual apartment without them having to be out of there.”
On the nursing home side, LifeCare Greenbush Manor isolated and transferred COVID-positive individuals to a specific COVID wing, and dedicated staff specifically to this wing.
Then, the COVID vaccine came out and LifeCare was able to start administering to its residents in late December, just after Christmas. Everyone in the assisted living wing has received the vaccine and a “high percentage” of its nursing home residents have received it. Dvergsten reported how many residents were excited and happy about this.
“They knew that that vaccine, it was important for everything,” Dvergsten said. “I mean, it was kind of like the end was coming or the end was in sight, that they could see the end of the pandemic.”
Gradually the facility began to open up more. It began by allowing one essential caregiver or one specific family member to come and visit their loved one for an hour or two.
In March, LifeCare began allowing up to three visitors— family members or friends— per resident to visit— allowed to stay however long they want. These visitors have to wear a mask and go through a screening process that includes a temperature check and answering questions related to being ill or having any exposure to COVID before they sign in.
“The public has been great (with this process),” Carlson said.
Dvergsten considered this increase in visitors an important policy change.
“It was difficult for them (residents) to make a decision, too, of who that one family member could be and that one caregiver,” So then to have two or three people come in at once, it was just exciting for them to get one more step closer to normalcy.”
To see the complete story, read the May 19 issue of The Tribune in print or online.