The beautiful lady on our cover this week, Rachael Berrios (Nana), is a very strong woman, and possibly a little lucky. After tackling COVID-19, last Friday afternoon she had an astounding 100th Birthday Party. It was celebrated in a mostly empty room, with a few balloons and large banner, but only staff attending at the nursing home because of virus restrictions. Still, she and her family celebrated her accomplishments and her continuing life.
But other ‘elderly’ were not so lucky. A staggering 6,300 lost their lives this Spring from the pandemic. That is nearly 1/3 of New York State’s 24,700 deaths.
The measure of a society is often how they care for the most vulnerable, the very young and aged. While the debate continues whether and how many of these deaths could have been prevented if COVID-19 patients had not been transferred from hospital beds to nursing homes, and whether the nursing homes were misled as to whether they could claim inability to handle them, the more challenging questions are what can prevent such a tragedy from happening again. And the larger question of whether the US is doing all it must do to support the quality of life of its aging population.
Temperature checks, adequate PPE, testing and tracking of staffing have been first steps to improve institutional care. But staffing has been critically low in most nursing homes for a long time. Funding for better care has become a huge challenge that will grow as Baby Boomers continue to age, and density has been outed as the close friend of contagion.
This week Governor Cuomo passed a law that will require nursing home residents to be able to have, free of charge, “remote videoconference or equivalent with family and/or guardians”, and update families of infected residents daily. Non-compliance will result in fines and possible civil penalties. They must also prove adequate extra personal protective equipment supplies (2 months). But before dealing with ‘how to manage the next pandemic’, Science is just starting to step in to study the effectiveness of what is being and needs to be done, to prevent and/or limit contagion, and particularly regarding air quality. Some nursing homes kept staff onsite to prevent spread. Some nursing homes erected plexiglass shields that allowed family members to visit and stave off loneliness that could contribute to the likelihood of becoming ill.
At the very beginning of this pandemic, National Guard members that were sent to the Javitt’s Center to prepare for possible patient overload were protected by many extra air handling units and division of spaces that limited shared air and highly filtered air that was pumped in. Not one staff member became ill. On a more local basis, where towns and cities had active Senior Support Systems keeping those more vulnerable well fed, and active had far less illness and far fewer deaths. Even the top scientists in the country acknowledged that COVID-19 has a very steep learning curve to battle, one that is deadly to ignore, or will be lifesaving to tackle.
Rachel Berrios – Washingtonville resident Rachel Berrios celebrated her 100th birthday on Friday, June 19 at Sapphire Nursing Home in Goshen. Her two granddaughters and family were there to celebrate her birthday though the nursing home window. Rachel was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico on June 19, 1920. She moved to New York City with her mother and brother when she was five years old. Rachel was married to Ruben Berrios and later divorced. She was blessed with a son and daughter. Rachel lived in New York City for any years where she worked as an Educational Assistant for the Board of Education. She helped many neighbors in her community who needed a translator. Rachel moved to Washingtonville with her daughter. Her family has grown to include five grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren and four great, great grandchildren. She is a fun-loving woman who the family calls Nana. Rachel recently had the Covid 19 virus and survived it! We are all so very proud of our Nana! The photo and bio were submitted by Rachel’s son, Tom Lyons