Hennen: A sad milestone in the COVID era
A dark time for those in their golden years
North Dakota recently surpassed the two-year anniversary of the first case of coronavirus in the state. It was on March 11, 2020, that the North Dakota Department of Health announced its first case of the novel coronavirus. Now, more than two years later, more than 200,000 positive cases and 2,000 deaths have been attributed to the virus in North Dakota. Some of the hardest hit areas include our 218 long-term care facilities across the state.
On March 13, 2020, my producer, Chris Larson, and his fellow residents at Luther Memorial Home in Mayville, were locked down due to coronavirus. This was the same in most – if not all – of the long-term care facilities in North Dakota. Some were closed for months, which signaled some of the darkest times in the lives of tens of thousands of North Dakotans.
During this prolonged disruption of life as we knew it, we all have heard of the things people lost – the contact with loved ones, the ability to move freely among the communities and the ability to congregate together. These are all things residents in nursing homes, and all of us, need to be able to thrive in life.
A lot has been robbed from residents in long-term care over the course of the last two years. In a 2020 survey from The Consumer Voice, a leading source of education, advocacy and policy analysis for long-term care, 82% of family members noted a decline in physical abilities, while 91% reported that their loved one’s demeanor had declined. That is precious time that can never be replaced.
Some nursing homes, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, allowed school children to come and interact with the residents. Quickly, those opportunities were lost in early March 2020. Those cherished moments, when the children could come see their adopted “grandparents,” have yet to resume in some nursing homes across the country. These opportunities provide chances for residents to socially interact with the younger generation.
The comforting feeling of a loved one being able to be by a resident’s bedside in their time of need was also lost during the pandemic. When a resident was declining, and the community or nursing home was seeing a high transmission rate, loved ones were sometimes not allowed into the rooms of their family members.
That brings us to the unsung heroes in the past two yearsL The staff of our local long-term care facilities. The staff and management, who, when called upon, served as family to residents in their darkest times of their lives. Without these staff members, the past two years would have likely ended in even further disrepair than they did.
The staff of nursing homes across the United States are true heroes, even though they don’t wear capes. It goes without saying that staff in long-term care facilities have gone above and beyond their call of duty – to improve your loved one’s lives in a very difficult time. Thank God for them.
We can’t replace the time lost for these residents, but we can do our part to make up for lost time. Break your routines and find a moment to visit someone in a long-term care facility. Volunteer opportunities provide a chance to receive way more than you give. Let’s remember what the last two years have robbed from them and replace it with the gift of time. It will bring the residents and staff some much needed joy.
Scott Hennen hosts the statewide radio program “What’s On Your Mind?” On AM 1100 “The Flag”, KFYR AM 550, AM 1090 KTGO “The Flag” and AM 1460 KLTC. Email him at ScottH@FlagFamily.com
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.