Senior lives do count in R.I.

Senior lives do count in R.I.

(Letter is a response to Berge: Do senior lives count in R.I.? published June 18, Valley Breeze)

Thank you, Mr. Berge, for the motivation to tackle my summer work. Like many, I have a family member who resides in a nursing home here in Rhode Island. Having tested positive for COVID-19 on April 7, she and dozens of other residents have spent the past seven weeks in isolation from the “healthy” section of her facility. I have followed the obituaries and am saddened to think how we will tell my mother-in-law that she has lost friends, including her roommate, to COVID-19.

Overall, they were doing well, without this novel virus finding its way to our most vulnerable population. But eventually the news came that was hard to hear, that she tested positive and, although asymptomatic, would need to be moved to another part of the facility, paired with another COVID positive senior. With several underlying health conditions, we knew that it would be a long haul for her. So far, she is beating the odds.

I will not go into how difficult it has been in our scattered conversations to keep her spirits up and to support the sadness and worry that she has expressed. In fact, there is a lot I will edit from this commentary because it is my purpose to bring something positive out of this pandemic, rather than dwell on what can not be undone.

So to get back to my summer initiative, I am appealing to anyone who may want to join me in tackling legislature to improve managing our nursing homes and group homes under pandemic circumstances, and to improve benefits and working wages for our front line caregivers. Maybe the incidence of cross contamination can be mitigated if these employees are able to work at just one facility. Maybe our families’ “homes” do not become the dropping zone for others who are sick as Mr. Berge shared in last week’s edition of The Valley Breeze.

I do not know the first place to start in this work. It is uncharted territory to me. I welcome you, your guidance and any energy you can muster up to help me appeal to our senators and congress members with the vision of being in a better position to protect our seniors in Rhode Island from becoming sitting ducks to life-threatening viruses.

Thank you for any support you may be able to contribute.

Jen Banos