The Battle Continues: A pandemic update

As Lutheran Services Carolinas celebrated 60 years of service in 2020 a global pandemic drastically changed the way we serve, particularly on the senior services side.

Skilled nursing communities are always concerned about controlling infectious diseases, since residents of those communities are particularly vulnerable. When flu outbreaks happen, LSC communities have always sprung into action to protect residents.

When experts advised that COVID-19 was not only easily spread but had the potential to be more dangerous than the flu, LSC took action to get ahead of the virus, curtailing visitation before it was required. Leadership mobilized quickly to put rigorous infection-control measures in place and ensure that LSC communities had the protective gear necessary to protect both residents and staff from contracting the virus.

It became clear that if COVID was widespread in local communities, it would be virtually impossible to keep the virus entirely out of senior living communities, no matter what measures were in place. As of the first week in October, 177 LSC teammates had contracted the virus, as well as 162 residents. Thirty-eight resident deaths were attributed to COVID-19. LSC mourned the losses and celebrated as most residents who contracted the virus recovered.

Those figures are sobering, but in the context of the overall pandemic, they could certainly have been much worse without the hard work LSC teammates have put in. Beyond the never-ending infection control measure, those efforts include more than 10,500 COVID tests performed on LSC residents and teammates, at a cost of $1.2 million.

It has been a stressful year, not only because of the extraordinary pressures placed on teammates but because residents were, for many months, unable to be in the physical presence of their families and loved ones. Tending to the emotional health of residents who may feel isolated and alone has been a huge challenge that our LSC teammates have handled with grace and compassion.

LSC teammates tirelessly helped residents connect with family members through Zoom and FaceTime chats, phone calls, and window visits. Activities teammates like the Hall Hoppin’ Heroes at Trinity Place upped their games by bringing joyful silliness to lift residents’ spirits. Numerous festive parades – or “joy rides” – were organized, with families in decorated vehicles driving by to share encouragement.

LSC social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram) have been overflowing with warm and joyful moments, and some of those have attracted the attention – more than once—of “Some Good News,” a popular YouTube web series started by John Krazinski near the beginning of the pandemic.

Finally, in late September, LSC communities who met certain criteria in terms of outbreaks were able to reinstate visitation. After six months, that was cause for jubilation.

With the pandemic nowhere near ended, LSC continues to vigilantly protect its residents and staff members as best it can and tries to educate the public that a careless, unthinking approach to the real danger that is COVID can have far-reaching effects on the most vulnerable.

We appreciate the patience of our residents, teammates, families, and supporters. We will get through this together.