Hamil R. HarrisHealth

Caring for Seniors During the Coronavirus Crisis

At a time when the spread of the novel coronavirus has sparked concern about the care of the elderly, those who operate the Stoddard Baptist Nursing Home want people to know that the residents in their facilities are well.

“It is a blessing from God that our residents are doing well,” said Steven Nash, president and CEO of Stoddard Baptist Home Foundation, which has two facilities in the District and another in Maryland housing hundreds of residents, medical professionals and staff members.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said that more than 80 nursing homes across the state now have staff members and residents who have tested positive for COVID-19, the potentially deadly respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

With that in mind, Nash stressed the importance of living up to his company’s motto in recent weeks, “Caring During COVID-19.”

“We question workers every day according to CDC standards, we take their temperature of each staff member when they come to the door,” Nash said. “Even now, we are raising money to get more personal protective equipment for our employees, to get more masks and gowns as opposed to using trash bags.”

As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, nursing homes are off-limits to outsiders, including family and friends. Nash said that in normal circumstances, nursing homes take precautions to limit infections, such as providing rooms where patients can reside in isolation.

At the Crescent City Nursing Home in Hyattsville, officials say they are taking additional precautions, including prohibiting visits by family and religious groups. In exchange, an official said, family members are calling their clients through FaceTime.

But several people who have parents and family members living or working in nursing homes say that while they understand the rules, not being able to see their loved ones is difficult nonetheless.

One man who didn’t want to be identified said his mother’s sister died this week.

“I can’t go into the nursing to console my mother,” he said.

An Oxon Hill man, whose 54-year-old sister died Friday in New York City, is keeping the faith.

“My sister was working in a nursing home,” he said. “She had a cough, caught a fever and then she died.”

Allison Prince, a Pupil Personnel Worker in Montgomery County, said that while the added stress of worrying about her mother amid the pandemic is “definitely tough,” she takes comfort in knowing the Bowie home in which her mother resides has been proactive in ensuring its residents’ safety.

“The facility … was actually taking precautions before they were mandated to do it,” Prince said.

Nash said they have purchased iPads to take into the residents’ rooms for virtual visits but acknowledges the system isn’t perfect for families who really miss their loved ones.

“It’s a stressful situation,” he said. “The world has been turned upside down and people want to see their families.”

Stoddard Baptist Nursing Home, which opened in 1902, originally housed 164 residents and more than 200 staffers. The company now has 259 residents and a staff of more than 300 at its three facilities, including Marigold Assisted Living in Prince George’s County.

Nash said the staff is doing a great job under trying circumstances.

“My biggest shout out is to the front-line staff, the [registered nurses], the social workers, the housekeeping staff,” he said. “We pray every day and this is the glue that is holding us together. Our message to the community is that we love every one of our residents and we want to care for them as well as our staff at this time.”

Stoddard Baptist Home is collecting financial donations to purchase the following items:

Paper plates
Disposable cups
Disposable utensils
Sanitizer wipes
Powder-free synthetic exam gloves
Surgical face masks
iPads (for residents to connect with family members who cannot visit)

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Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the Greater Washington Area. Hamil has chronicled the Million Man March, the Clinton White House, the September 11 attack, the sniper attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the campaign of President Barack Obama and many other people and events. Hamil is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of the Washington Post where he writes a range of stories, shoots photos and produces videos for the print and online editions of the Post. In addition, he is often called upon to report on crime, natural disasters and other breaking issues. In 2006 Harris was part of a team of reporters that published the series “Being a Black Man.” He was also the reporter on the video project that accompanied the series that won two Emmy Awards, the Casey Medal and the Peabody Award. Hamil has lectured at Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, the American University, the University of Maryland and the University of the District of Columbia. He also lectures several times a year to interns during their semester in the District as part of their matriculation at the Consortium of Christian Colleges and Universities.

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