Window visits, vaccines and positivity: Renew staff in Glenwood Springs work to keep residents safe on and off the job
Rachael Gilmore is new to the Roaring Fork Valley but very familiar with providing geriatric care as a former CNA, and now Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) at Renew.
She moved to the area and started working at Renew about six months ago after the COVID-19 pandemic was no longer new to her.
“We get tested as residents and employees. We try to maintain and keep our social distance at the facility but yet we work as a team. We’ve been pretty protective at keeping Covid down or from the facility, so I’m very proud of that,” Gilmore said.
Gilmore has a heart for elderly care and said that the health stakes are heightened because of COVID-19. She said residents tend to struggle more with depression, especially if they are required to self-isolate after testing positive for the virus.
“I would say it’s very hard because you can’t see your family members but we continue to do window visits as allowed … but we try to keep an upbeat mood for them and keep the activities positive but it’s very hard for the residents and the families,” Gilmore said.
In an effort to lift spirits, even in isolation, Gilmore said she and other nurses will gear up in PPE and bring residents whatever they can, sometimes a puzzle or other individual activities, to help them take their mind off things.
Gilmore also said that there’s special attention given to residents who don’t have many people coming to see them, or “window visits,” the new social calling for nursing homes.
“We still try to be proactive. We still go in, we get gowned up and see what we can do for them of course. We still try to do FaceTime with the families and keep them a part of what’s going on in the community,” Gilmore said.
Last Wednesday marked a turning point for Renew — they were able to administer the first round of the COVID-19 vaccine to staff and residents in the facility. Gilmore said all of the residents consented to getting vaccinated without any pushback. A handful of staff members didn’t get it due to pregnancy, she said.
“Everyone took the vaccine, all residents and residents’ families were on board with them getting the vaccine,” Gilmore said.
Laine Fabijanic, the Experiences Director at Renew, said Gilmore, who is the manager for Renew on the weekends, brings an attitude of getting things done and compassion for residents in the community. Fabijanic said Gilmore’s focus strengthens her abilities as an LPN.
“Her care for our residents is efficient and compassionate. She has a wealth of experience that she brought with her to this job from her previous experience,” Fabijanic said.
For vaccination day, Fabijanic said the Renew staff embraced the event with silliness. There was a photo booth for residents to take pictures with a white board and write down why they were getting the vaccine, and Fabijanic said most of them wrote “Because I’m being told to” or “To get the hell out of here.” The staff also prepared non-alcoholic jello shots in syringes, had Covid shaped rice krispies for a snack, and a Covid pinata to commemorate what they referred to as “Take a shot” day.
“We were watching the inauguration while we were monitoring our residents after they received the vaccine. So, there was this air of hope that was pervasive throughout the community … it was a great day for America and us to get closer and closer to more freedom for our residents,” Fabijanic said.
Gilmore said not much will change procedure-wise in the living facility now that the first part of the vaccine was distributed. She said the staff knows to keep safety precautions in place as an effort to continue protecting themselves and the residents, not only when they’re at work but also on their own time to not put themselves in a position where they might risk exposure.
“It’s almost expected when you work with people in a community like that you try to keep yourself safe so you can keep others safe. I haven’t been out to a restaurant in months, I haven’t participated in any activity outside of going to work and coming back home. That’s just the way it is,” Gilmore said.
Because visitors are currently not allowed inside the facility, it can be hard for families to understand the kind of treatment their loved one is receiving. Gilmore said that, although family members cannot be with their relatives who live in the home, or monitor their condition and care, she and the other staff continue to work with compassion with a goal of safety and limited COVID-19 cases, just as much as they did at the beginning of the pandemic.
“I don’t think people realize the sacrifices being made by residents and the staff,” Gilmore said. “I think that everything that’s going on in the news, it’s not like that in every facility. At Renew we take precautions at work and away from work…we take this thing very seriously.”
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