When certified nursing assistant Ashely Brown comes to visit her patients in senior care facilities, she knows treating them like family is more important now than ever before.
“All of my clients are missing their families and feeling alone because they’re isolated,” she said. “It’s scary for them and the only person who can come into the building to see them is us, the caregivers.”
Brown is a nursing assistant with Saving Grace Homecare Williamsburg, which employs a number of nursing staff that assist elderly both in care facilities and in their own homes. But Brown’s two clients are in local nursing facilities and have been cut off from any physical interactions with their families to protect them from the coronavirus.
Brown said it’s been difficult to watch her patients slide into a depression and she does what she can to lift their spirits. Typically this means talking to them, listening to Christian music together or simply providing a sense of companionship.
“I treat any of my patients as a family member, just as I would my own,” Brown said. “But being able to care for families and their loved ones, you have to be resilient.”
One of the most difficult aspects is caring for someone who is dying, especially during a time when they can’t see their families, she said. None of her patients have died during this time but she said she has co-workers who have had to go through the difficult experience.
When a patient is about to die, Brown said they’ll know it’s their time and will talk about being ready. She said she and her co-workers just try to provide any last moments of comfort they can.
“It’s a hard experience to see someone die at their last stages and their family not be able to be there to support them,” she said. “You have to be strong willed to be able to be in the nursing field, especially to take care of someone that is dying.”
Brown said what helps get her through this tough time is her faith in God and the belief that one day things will be better.
But even as nursing assistants such as Brown continue to serve their patients, many with Saving Grace Homecare have found their hours limited as patients are cared for by family members working from home.
Mary Brown, owner of Saving Grace, said normally the business has about 30 aides working at one time but now there are only approximately 20.
Mary Brown and Ashley Brown are not related.
To help continue to get the employees hours as well as provide a service in the community, Mary Brown has started paying employees their hourly wage to do different volunteer work in the community.
She said she wanted her employees to take their extra time and think about ways they can give back.
“I think a lot of the small businesses that are struggling don’t realize there is so much you can still do to support the community that has supported us,” she said. “So it’s really time to take a look at giving back.”
The business has also started donating to the food pantry at the Pineapple Inn, which houses many struggling families, Mary Brown said. She added that when she was first looking for places to give back to, she realized that a lot of younger families with small children were probably having a difficult time at the moment. That’s why she reached out to Pineapple Inn, where she thought the food pantry could help alleviate people’s burdens at least a little bit.
She is also paying her employees to drive for Meals on Wheels, which has started delivering to homeless children in local hotels.
“So many people are suffering, you see it everyday,” she said. “You don’t know what to do but there are organizations that really need us to look beyond our own financial situations as a business and see how we can support the community.”
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