Leslie Radcliffe looks ahead to the planned reopening of Connecticut’s economy beginning on May 20 with a mix of hope and anxiety. Hope, because people in her working-class Hill neighborhood in New Haven will be able to return to work, but anxiety because she’s worried that the “reopening” won’t go smoothly. In particular, she is concerned about testing for coronavirus. Will there be enough testing so the disease won’t catch fire again and threaten the lives and livelihoods in her predominantly black and Latinx neighborhood? Radcliffe, an administrative assistant at Yale University, has been working from home, but last week she began driving her brother to his job at Costco.
Placing loved ones in a nursing home is often fraught with emotions, and a common one is guilt. Many are feeling a resurgence of guilt now, knowing that they are at higher risk during this pandemic. Coronavirus has swept through 150 of the state’s nursing homes and, as of April 29, 1,249 residents have died — representing about 55% of all COVID-19 deaths. As of last Thursday, there were 4,814 cases in nursing facilities. ConnHealthITeam · Coping With Pandemic: Guilt
Dr. Kirsten Wilkins, an associate professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, talks with C-HIT’s Colleen Shaddox about strategies you can use to help your elderly relatives – and yourself – cope during the pandemic.
Weeks into staying home from preschool, Betty, 4, threw herself on the floor and had a screaming meltdown. She had had a Zoom meeting with her class earlier that day, and every little thing was setting her off. “We don’t accept screaming in our house,” said Betty’s mother, Laura Bower-Phipps, professor and coordinator of elementary education at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. “So, we counted the screams, and when she hit three, my wife and I told her she needed to take a break for four minutes.” Betty took the break, came back and screamed three more times, and again went to her quiet spot for another four minutes. And so, it went on.
For the past month or so, Leikish Nails has engaged in an elaborate ritual the minute she gets home from her shift at Touchpoints at Manchester, a skilled nursing facility that has seen four deaths and more than two dozen illnesses caused by COVID-19. She kicks her shoes off before she walks in, sprays them and leaves them on the deck before disrobing in potentially full view of the neighbors. Her clothes immediately go in the washing machine seconds before she jumps in the shower. “I don’t hug my kids as much as I used to,” the 38-year-old Willimantic resident said. “I’m afraid to hug my kids,” she said while crying during a recent phone call.
Of the state’s 215 nursing homes, 108 have at least one confirmed case of COVID-19, the state Department of Public Health (DPH) reported Thursday as it released for the first time a breakdown of COVID-19 patients by facility. A total of 1,713 nursing home residents with COVID-19 have been identified, of whom 375 have died, the DPH reported Thursday. Those 375 deaths are 39 percent of the state’s COVID-19 deaths. The nursing home with the highest number of residents with COVID-19 is the Abbott Terrace Health Center in Waterbury, with 69; followed by the Golden Hill Rehab Pavilion in Milford with 67; and the Grimes Center in New Haven, with 58, according to the DPH data. Five nursing homes had only one patient with COVID-19: Elim Park Baptist Home in Cheshire, RegalCare at Greenwich, Guilford House, Westside Care Center in Manchester, and Skyview Rehab and Nursing in Wallingford.
Soon after Minerva Cuapio, a 48-year-old Mexican immigrant who lives in New Haven, was laid off from her job at a dry cleaner in March, she developed a headache, an itchy throat and a dry cough. Then came the shortness of breath that really worried her daughter, Izarelli Mendieta, 29, of New Haven. While trying to get her mother care, she said, they were bounced from a doctor to the state’s COVID-19 hotline to a telemedicine visit back to the hotline and then to a drive-through testing center and an emergency room visit. The family waited nine days for Cuapio’s positive test results. Izarelli’s father, Pedro Mendieta, 55, who lost a foot to diabetes, tested positive, too, but had mild symptoms.
Minerva Cuapio and Pedro Mendieta have recovered, but their daughter, who translates for her parents because they only speak Spanish, said if she could meet Gov. Ned Lamont, she would ask him to make the process easier for families like hers.
The COVID-19 pandemic will likely result in a “huge paradigm shift” toward in-home dialysis treatments in the future, experts predict. Home “is the safest place for them to be,” said Dr. Holly Kramer, president of the National Kidney Foundation and a practicing nephrologist. In times like this, immunocompromised individuals are at increased risk of becoming ill. Roughly 85% of dialysis patients get their treatments in centers—often three days a week, and typically for several hours at a time—where other dialysis patients also are being treated, she said. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, nephrologists nationwide were urging a growing number of patients to consider at-home care, she said, and the pandemic “will push things much, much faster” in that direction.
It’s important to practice physical distancing – but not social distancing. People need connection and belonging. There are ways to achieve that online through volunteering and using new platforms to connect with friends. Low-tech sources of meaning like poetry and prayer are helpful too. C-HIT’s Colleen Shaddox talks about ways to battle loneliness with Dr. Megan V. Smith, associate professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and the Yale Child Study Center at the Yale School of Medicine.
Adolescents want and need to be with peers, so the isolation imposed by the pandemic is especially hard for them. Parents are put in the difficult position of enforcing that isolation. Students are also experiencing many losses – Spring sports, prom, graduations, and field trips. C-HIT’s Colleen Shaddox talks about how parents can support their teenaged children with Dr. Megan V. Smith, associate professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and the Yale Child Study Center at the Yale School of Medicine.
The pandemic has many parents trying to do their jobs from home, supervise their children’s education and provide 24-7 care. Creating reasonable expectations can keep parents from becoming overwhelmed in a high stress situation. Setting goals that are achievable – and carving out a bit of time for yourself — will make this extraordinary time more manageable. C-HIT’s Colleen Shaddox discusses ways to find balance with Dr. Megan V. Smith, associate professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and the Yale Child Study Center at the Yale School of Medicine.