The virus has seniors trapped, stuck inside for their own safety. But even quarantined inside nursing homes, the novel coronavirus still managed to find a way in.
Tonya Dubois is the director of nursing for the Hillsborough County Nursing Home in Goffstown, New Hampshire. At one point back in May, 150 residents here were infected with COVID-19. By the time the outbreak was over, 50 seniors had died from complications related to COVID-19.
The staff was heartbroken.
“What people had to see, it was very hard,” Dubois recalled as she held back tears. “These staff members stayed and held patients' hands; they never died alone.”
Limiting the virus spread has been hard. Months later, only two people in the nursing home now have COVID-19. That’s thanks in part to a no-visitor policy here and across the country in other senior care facilities. Isolating for safety though has also come at the expense of senior’s mental health.
“A lot of them don’t get to talk to people all day. Some have families, and some don’t,” said Tammie Richard, who also works as a nurse at Hillsborough.
Through much of the spring, Richard noticed how depressed residents were getting without haircuts. Because of the virus, the facility’s beauty parlor had to be been shut down. Richard, who's also a cosmetologist, decided to take her show on the road.
Or at least down the hallway.
She found a way to do trims, cuts, and color safely. While wearing PPE and sanitizing her equipment, she able to cut residents' hair one room at a time.
“The touching, touching, and talking to somebody, the hour, the half-hour they love getting their hair done. I just want them to feel comfortable, relaxed, and happy,” Richard added.
With residents here cut off from the outside world, a simple cut is doing wonders for these seniors’ mental health. Because Richard is a licensed nursing assistant, she's considered essential. She and another cosmetologist on staff can check the resident’s vital signs, while at the same time taking a little more off the top.
Nursing homes nationwide are now adopting similar ideas.
“It makes them not feel as depressed. It makes them have a different level of comfort. It makes them feel normal again,” Richard said about the cuts she’s been giving.
Not only is she keeping seniors looking young, but she's also helping them stay young at heart.