Guest Columnist

Eight ways to support Iowa's long-term care workers

Residents made signs and decorated their vehicles for the caravan that visited two Fairfield nursing homes Sunday, March
Residents made signs and decorated their vehicles for the caravan that visited two Fairfield nursing homes Sunday, March 29. (Photo courtesy of Parkview Care Center)

Watching KCRG news recently, it simultaneously swelled and broke my heart to see a few staff members of the Heritage Specialty Care steal a few moments to wave their thanks and acknowledgment to members of a local church who had congregated in the parking lot, inside their vehicles, to pray over the facility, its residents and staff.

I couldn’t help but think of all of these staff people and thousands like them across Iowa, who work every day to battle against an unseen enemy.

Despite having the highest number of vulnerable people susceptible for contracting the coronavirus, due to hoarding and availability, nursing homes are struggling to find adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to perform their jobs safely. The majority of staff in long-term care (LTC) facilities are young, with children at home and the balance are, they themselves, considered “higher-risk” due to age and/or health issues of their own.

From housekeeping, maintenance and dietary to activities, nursing and administration, these people are heroes in ordinary times. Today, they are nothing short of angels on earth.

For many of us, with nothing but time on our hands, the following is a list of some ideas to possibly fill your day and allow you to contribute, as they do their part to help our precious elderly to stay safe.

1. If you have a loved one in an LTC facility who does not have a cellphone or one that is broken, get them one and/or have theirs repaired so you may communicate any time.

2. If your loved one is unable to communicate directly, the contact person listed on your loved ones’ chart could phone for updates as needed then communicate your call to other family and friends. Assume that there has been no change in your loved ones’ condition if the contact person has not been notified by the facility.

2. Stop using N95 masks for your personal use. Donate, or in large quantities, sell them to LTC facilities.

3. Check newspapers or online to find patterns for sewing fabric masks and gowns to donate for staff use in non-direct resident care and to use when they go out for necessary personal items, such as to the grocery store.

4. Purchase gift cards from nearby restaurants and deliver for staff meals.

5. Send baked goods from the local bakery for staff breaks.

6. If you personally know of someone who works in health care, make and deliver a meal for their entire family.

7. Offer to watch their kids when they go to work.

8. Soon you could mow their lawn.

And continue to pray for the residents, staff and all essential workers.

Lisa Walton of Marion is a former long-term care administrator and the wife, mother and mother-in-law of current long-term health care workers.

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