One year has passed since the novel coronavirus’s first known case in the United States was reported in Snohomish County, Washington State, on January 20, 2020. During this time, frontline workers and essential employees for senior living and long-term care-have no rest and continue to work every day to maintain basic needs.
Psychotherapist Doris Klinkhamer said that the fight against the coronavirus had laid the foundation for the ongoing mental health crisis among essential workers. Many essential workers are required to work at wages equal to or slightly higher than the minimum wage and are at risk of contracting the virus at work.
This will increase physical, mental, and emotional stress. People are more prone to anxiety and depression in extreme events and are prone to alcoholism and drug abuse. A recent study from the New York University School of Global Health, published in the journal Preventive Medicine, shows that people with anxiety and depression drink more alcohol during a pandemic.
The pandemic may also lead to an increase in suicides. Japan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare reported that the number of suicides would reach 20,919 by 2020, an increase of 3.9% after a decade of decline. Among them, the suicide rate of women and children is exceptionally high.
During the pandemic, the labor force has been one of the biggest challenges and costs faced by the most extensive living providers. The mental health crisis in the workforce in this industry may lead to higher absenteeism and turnover rates, thereby exacerbating these challenges.
To make matters more complicated, 2020 is a year of extremely stressful events, including “dark life incidents” protests across the country, a controversial election, and its aftermath, including the Capitol riots in Washington, DC.
Klinkamer said: “The past year has been a continuous trauma.”
Throughout the pandemic, senior housing providers have been actively protecting the mental health of frontline workers. Many people offer enhanced benefits, such as flexible schedules, extra personal vacation and sick leave, and “hero pay” wages. Other agencies, such as ALG Seniors and the Miami Jewish Health Bureau, have taken additional measures to ensure the health and good mental health of their employees, such as establishing a call hotline, implementing agreements, and having smaller group meetings for employees to check others and better Identify signs of the need for mental health rest.
Dr. Mark Agronin, senior vice president of behavioral health at the Miami Jewish Health Bureau, told the media that this would be necessary for the next few months because the Biden administration has laid the foundation for more coordinated federal action. He is a geriatric psychiatrist and the Miami Jewish Health Center (MIND Institute).
The organization provides senior health services and life options, including independent living, affordable senior housing, assisted living, long-term care, home health, and the All-Inclusive Care Program (PACE).
By the end of February, the total death toll from Covid-19 is expected to exceed 500,000. Even if the vaccination continues, he will still see a lasting response.
He said: “We are in the [external] community, similar to last spring.” “It is important for people not to let their guard down.”
Last spring, when the first wave of the coronavirus hit the country, many senior living and nursing institutions were already working hard to recruit and retain, and frontline medical staff did not rest.
In some parts of the world where the coronavirus was hit hard for the first time, there are already signs of PTSD among healthcare workers. A study published last June on Chinese nurses’ exposure to Covid-19 showed that the incidence of PTSD was 16.83%.
In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a national study conducted at the end of June, which found that 40% of respondents reported symptoms of anxiety, depression, or substance abuse. In the past 30 days, more than 10% of people reported suicidal ideation, compared with 4% in 2018.
Frontline workers in long-term care must deal with actual and feared workplace exposure to the pressure of coronavirus. If they miss extended working hours due to quarantine or other diseases, they must face financial losses. Besides, although frontline employees have adapted to the pandemic and have put on personal protective equipment, the current surge of inactive cases and deaths coincides with some people’s concerns about vaccination.
He said: “The challenge now is to address many of people’s concerns about vaccines, especially among frontline caregivers.”
In the first few weeks of the pandemic, Miami Jewish Health has taken multiple steps to deal with the emotional and mental health of their employees. the service provider has established an employee hotline to address field staff’s concerns, whether they are related to medical conditions or mental health.
Miami Jewish Health has mental health staff on its campus, composed of two psychiatrists, two psychologists, and a nurse. The team regularly communicates in the workforce, establishes relationships, establishes contacts with employees, reminds workers that the mental health team can solve any problems and concerns, and urges frontline workers to share when they may need closer clinical contact. At this point, they will be referred to the provider’s employee assistance program for consultation.
Another strategy to change employee welfare and control anxiety is to assign a full-time doctor to communicate with anyone who has questions about Covid-19 and assist in the isolation management of employees who have tested positive for the coronavirus and, where possible, Organize and return to work.
Agronin said: “This doctor played a key role in reducing people’s daily anxiety about Covid-19 testing and general management.” “For anyone with questions or concerns, he is a fantastic resource. ”
Chief Human Resources Officer Mary Raddant said that ALG Senior has also taken action to protect its employees’ health. The operator based in Hickory, North Carolina (formerly known as Affinity Living Group) supports many communities in the southeastern United States.
ALG senior executives conducted several rounds of disaster resilience training to their leaders to improve their self-awareness in ways that are really useful and helpful, thus improving workers’ emotions. Provide pastoral counseling for interested groups and individuals. Moreover, ALG Senior has improved its employee assistance program. Every employee and their family members (including part-time employees) can participate in up to three consulting courses for free.
Raddant said: “For everyone, not only in the local community but last year, the whole world has experienced this experience. It is a completely different experience and challenging for all of us. of.”
War without a winner
There is no doubt how the frontline workers deal with the challenges during the pandemic.
With the blockade of communities across the country, frontline employees became the main link with residents. In the first few weeks of the establishment of Covid-19, they acted as channels between residents and their families, and residents learned how to use tablets and other communications tools to keep in touch with their loved ones.
The pressure employees continue to endure is undeniable and, in many cases, unable to speak.
Dr. Kevin O’Neil, Senior Chief Medical Officer of ALG, said that compassion and fatigue are constant throughout the industry. This is why operators continue to emphasize the importance of self-care and well-being to their employees.
He said: “If you are exhausted mentally and physically, you will be powerless.”
To this end, ALG Senior and the Human Resources Department of the Miami Jewish Health Center often collect data and conduct surveys to assess their job satisfaction and find signs of burnout.
Agronin believes that these check-ins can strengthen workplace relationships, and the feedback received allows leadership to take immediate action.
He said: “The survey work is excellent because then we can spend time analyzing and checking [data].”
Vaccination does not reset
The vaccine can be used for long-term care, which marks the end of the fight against Covid-19. But it will take several months before the scene after the pandemic.
Now turn our attention to educating staff about the benefits of vaccines. There are some smaller hospitals and nursing homes that refuse to be vaccinated. Some providers have taken measures to motivate employees to vaccinate. In some cases, 80% of staff still refuse to be vaccinated.
O’Neil said that senior ALG managers are taking educational initiatives to educate its frontline workers on vaccines’ benefits, which is a moral responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and the residents being cared for. After these efforts are exhausted, ALG senior management will force employees to get vaccinated, similar to how the organization requires all employees to get an annual flu vaccine.
He compared this approach with seat belt laws: contempt for dangers that endanger the driver and others.
He said: “We all value the autonomy to refuse or agree to medical treatment.” “But when your actions may endanger other people in the population, your autonomy will cease.”
The Miami Jewish Health Service is also taking an educational initiative to eliminate its frontline employees’ resistance to vaccination. Agronin believes that when resisters see the impact of vaccinated people, they will do more to alleviate lingering fears than any extended measures.
He said: “The irony is that even if we have a vaccine and see the light at the end of the tunnel, we are still in this epidemic, as strong as last spring.”
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