One would expect jubilation, jumping, screaming and even a small celebration once residents at the Chelsea Jewish Lifecare facilities got their COVID-19 vaccinations, but for one of the oldest residents at the Leonard Florence Center for Living (LFCFL), it was a bit more muted.
“Is that all?” asked Eleanor Karp, 106, after getting her appreciated but anti-climactic vaccination this month.
After all that COVID has caused for long-term care residents in 2020, the simple needle prick to hopefully prevent the scourge was a little bit less than expected. However, it hasn’t stopped a great deal of jubilation at the facilities this month as residents, staff and families begin to see a light at the end of what’s been a very lonely tunnel for Chelsea’s oldest and most vulnerable residents.
“It’s really about getting them in groups again and enjoying a home-cooked meal at a real dining room table,” said Adam Berman, president of Chelsea Jewish Lifecare. “It’s group activities and trips and all the things we took for granted before the pandemic. Many of these experiences are not and have not been available to older adults. Because of the restrictions in nursing homes and assisted livings, it’s been very difficult. It’s getting outside and enjoying fresh air and living with others again. Last year was so challenging, so this is a great kick-off to a new year.”
The Katzman Center and the LFCFL, as well as Chelsea Jewish’s other sites, started working with CVS and Walgreen’s the week of Jan. 4 to begin the vaccinations of their residents and staff members. That was preceded by a robust educational and advocacy campaign in the facilities for staff members, and for some residents. They have continued their vaccination clinics throughout the month and will have more in February and wrap up the effort on March 2 at Cohen, Florence Levine Estates.
Berman said even though life has been restricted for younger people and the general public, many may not know just how restrictive it has been on long-term care facility residents. Many have not been able to see family in a “normal” setting for almost a year. Some accommodations were made over the summer to do outside, scheduled visits, but it was still not the same.
To be on the path to having the freedom to see family and friends again without worry or fear is something Berman said cannot be put into words.
It can, however, be felt by the staff and residents who have lived through one of the most difficult times in more than 100 years for older adults.
“Most of our residents have been waiting eagerly for the vaccine,” he said. “They want to get out of the room and start seeing people again…In many cases they haven’t seen their loved ones, or if they have, it was behind Plexiglas. We’ve done inside and outside visits and done the best we can…That said, even during that, everyone is separate and far apart. It’s not the same.”
The CVS and Walgreen’s crew were to visit each home in the portfolio three times, and that way residents and staff could get both doses.
Berman said he had expected more than 600 people to be vaccinated across their network in the first week.
“By the end of February, we hope to have most of our residents vaccinated and a majority of staff as well,” said Berman.