The Banner-Press: Caring for the Vulnerable During Global Pandemic

May 11, 2021

For a while there it felt as though we were trying to get our sea legs in the midst of a Tsunami. The whole world was navigating unchartered waters and when a life raft was tossed out, it was frequently pulled back and another, slightly different one floated our way. Regulations, policies and guidelines on how skilled nursing communities must operate under COVID-19 came down from the Centers for Disease and Prevention Control (CDC) and the Texas State Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) and changed daily – sometimes in minutes. We had to re-educate, retrain and modify communications to our team members. It’s understandable – these conditions were unprecedented – but it was challenging and created a lingering sense of uncertainty.

This was the year of the Coronavirus.

I started as the executive director of operations at a long term care community last year in July. It was a responsibility I wanted but nevertheless was daunting as uncertainty, societal chaos, illness and grief surrounded everyone – an unwanted commonality.

Following protocols became an obsession. We disinfected, we tested, we quarantined, we communicated to anxious family members, we cared for and comforted our residents. And we comforted each other. We operated at DEF CON 1 for months on end and it didn’t end as the New Year came upon us. In fact, as bad as 2020 was, 2021 brought unexpected setbacks. Up to that time, our community had minimal positives among our residents and team members.

Then we got hit.

The relentlessly severe winter storm pressed down on Texas causing power outages, busted pipes and arctic temperatures delivering a cruel irony to us: the universe is not yet done with you.

We were in the course of offering our three-time vaccination clinics. The third one was scheduled during this weather Armageddon we were experiencing and we had to reschedule. And it was during that time, that we believe the virus came in and worked its pernicious spread throughout our skilled nursing community. After all those months of being relatively unscathed through sheer diligence and not a little luck – we had an outbreak of the virus that sent several residents to all-COVID care buildings and caught national media attention because some of those who contracted
the virus had been vaccinated once – but not yet received the second shot – and one team member had received both shots but not with enough time to build the antibody protection. Suddenly, we became the poster child for what the CDC had posted on its website for some time – those who are fully vaccinated often take up to two weeks to build and strengthen immunity and post script: nothing is 100 percent. We briefly became fascinating due to the fact we were transparent in our reporting and we corroborated what science tells us.

While the media attention was short-lived, it was distracting and the double-whammy of the storm and an outbreak was duly disturbing. We kept doing what we had from the outset – protecting our residents and protecting our team members.

National Skilled Nursing Care Week is here and while I always believe those who work in the service of seniors are extraordinary – after last year, that word takes on a whole new meaning.

As our Brenham community, the state of Texas and the world attempts to move into a new season that feels a little more like what we consider to be spring, I hope we embrace and honor those who have dedicated their lives to caring for the most vulnerable always and certainly during this frightening and precarious time.

This is not just a profession – it’s a calling. Let’s acknowledge that this year and embrace those individuals who have never given up.
Jeannie Dupree is the executive director of
operations for Focused Care at Brenham.


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