I’m Worried About the Emotional Impact on the Staff
Mr. Davis used to sit in the lobby and greet staff members when they walked in the door of the nursing care center. His wife had friendly chats with other residents when she came to visit; his children brought plates of homemade cookies to the nursing station during the holidays. Covid-19 took him, them and every other family from nursing homes during this pandemic.
His bed is now occupied by Mr. Ward, who was transferred from the hospital two days ago with a coronavirus diagnosis. He hasn’t seen his relatives in the three weeks since they brought him to the crowded emergency room and his cell phone disappeared somewhere along the way. Lonely and in distress, he calls for help from overwhelmed nurses and aides many times each shift.
The care team swiftly referred Mr. Ward to me for psychology services. I’m able to sit down with him, ease his isolation and begin to process his traumatic experiences. I put my mobile phone on speaker so that he can talk with his children. His requests for nursing assistance have decreased.
For over two decades, I’ve tended to the emotional needs of residents, families and staff as a psychologist in nursing homes in the New York Metropolitan area. The mental health consequences of this pandemic on those who live and have loved ones in nursing facilities are profound. Tragic tales of family members unable to visit dying relatives are increasing, and, when the homes open up again to visitors, we will undoubtedly learn of many more heartbreaking experiences.
No less deserving of attention are the emotional pressures on the front-line workers caring for fragile and aging residents.