Only a healthcare worker can understand what life was like inside a skilled nursing home experiencing the lethal impact of COVID-19 in the earliest months of 2020. As the pandemic started its sweep across America in late February, no one knew much about it. Providers like Camellia Gardens of Life Care that fought the virus just weeks after the first reported U.S. outbreak faced a much different battle than facilities that dealt with the virus in the summer and into the fall.
When the facility experienced its first positive case on April 1, 2020, medical professionals around the country were still uncertain about how the virus spread, only that it spread quickly. Testing was limited in those early days, and Life Care’s associates (staff members) were rightfully scared. It made staffing a challenge.
“Everyone was scared, but still committed to taking care of our residents,” said Assistant Director of Nursing Mia Brown.
As guidance on how to deal with an outbreak changed almost daily and PPE became an acronym everyone was familiar with, the loss of life in nursing homes like Camellia Gardens of Life Care was staggering. The facility lost nine precious residents to COVID-19. For associates, it was devastating. It was like losing nine members of their own family.
“I was at home when a couple of residents died, and it hurt my heart,” said Brown. “They had all survived so much in their lives, and this one pandemic came along and took them away. It hurt, bad.”
The facility’s associates worked tirelessly to remain up to date on latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the local and state health departments. Despite their grief, they sacrificed their own health and dedicated themselves to their work, to serving their residents and encouraging and uplifting their co-workers. While they battled the virus inside the walls of the facility, they were also dealing with the effects of the pandemic on their personal lives – the same fears and challenges and changes that all of us have dealt with this year.
“They are such a family there,” said Jennifer Solomon, Eastern Division vice president for Life Care Centers of America. “There was nothing that was going to stop them from taking care of their residents.”
It was evident that the pandemic had taken a huge toll on Camellia Gardens of Life Care’s associates, and the facility’s leadership recognized a need to help associates recover and know that their heroic efforts had been seen and were validated. The result was the birth of “Home of Champions,” an internal campaign that was created to intentionally admire the associate heroes that walk the halls of Camellia Gardens every day. A program to recognize associates whose valiant efforts often go unnoticed but who wholly deserve recognition and praise.
The campaign seeks to encourage associates through everything from handwritten notes to team-inspired signage throughout the facility to an inspirational champion-themed devotional booklet written by a former president of Life Care.
Today, Camellia Gardens of Life Care continues to provide a high level of service to its residents in a safe environment that focuses on the health and peace of mind of mind of residents and their families.
The fight against COVID-19 is far from over, and associates at the facility remain vigilant. Every day, they still show up on the front lines and do everything possible to prevent the virus from re-entering the facility and to protect their residents – their family.
Camellia Gardens of Life Care is proud to be a proud Home of Champions – a place where true champions live and work.