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Nursing homes have been in the news now more than ever. And much of it has been bad news. But do the bad headlines represent the entire industry? I think not.

COVID-19 has done a lot of damage and changed so many things in our country. Yet, at the same time many of us have rediscovered our ability to make and adapt to sweeping changes with dramatic impacts on our lives, families and businesses.

In my 25 years of experience in long-term care, one thing I do know — as a whole, we take very seriously the care of our residents and patients. Like any industry, there are challenges and problems, but caregiving is our No. 1 priority.

In fact, even before this unprecedented public health crisis, we had designated 2020 as “The Year of the Caregiver” at St. Anne’s Mead. And despite COVID-19, we kept it going. While many things were out of our control, like restricting visitors and the timing and availability of testing, what we could control we strengthened.

We strengthened and enhanced our infection control processes, so that now these have become second nature. Many of us took on new and expanded roles to cover a staffing crisis, and in the process discovered new talents and new relationships.

Externally, we developed new processes to maintain communication with our stakeholders, including family members, donors, business partners and care partners. We kept our families updated through electronic communication and personal phone calls so that they never felt alone. We introduced FaceTime and Zoom to 90-year-old residents, and they came to love it.

As an administrator, I cannot say enough about our staff members who, despite their fears, worked hard every day. They worked harder than they had ever worked before. And they did it for more than a paycheck.

Like many long-term care facilities, we have an amazing direct-care staff. As new information, restrictions and policies emerged at a dizzying speed, these caregivers came in day after day to give tender, loving care to residents — feeding, bathing, holding hands and giving comfort.

There is no question that the pandemic has taken a huge toll on the entire long-term care industry.

But we are not going anywhere. We are here to serve, and we will do everything in our power to keep our residents safe and able to enjoy their final years.

Jane Collins, executive director, St. Anne’s Mead, Southfield

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