During the coronavirus pandemic, no one has shown more courage and dedication than the home health aides of VNSNY’s affiliate, Partners in Care. While the rest of New York City has been staying home, our home health aides have been going out every day to take care of their clients—and to give them hope.
Thanks to them and their hard work, determination, and dedication, VNSNY has been able to provide the best possible care to our clients when they need us more than ever.
Each morning, 101-year-old Evelyn* received a radiant greeting: “Hello gorgeous, hello beautiful.” That’s because Shaunae P., her Partners in Care home health aide, was there to rouse her client from bed and help her face the day.
“Once your feet hit the floor, you sit up and think, ‘thank God, I got up this morning and I can move,’” Shaunae says. When she first started caring for Evelyn last November, she notes, her client was in bed all day. But with Shaunae’s help, Evelyn soon found her days full of light and life.
Even after the COVID-19 coronavirus came to the nursing home where Evelyn lived, Shaunae continued to visit her daily, suiting up in an N95 respirator and gown and putting on so much Purell that “you never realize you’re putting it on anymore.” And though Evelyn was now isolated in her room, Shaunae still made sure her client received a radiant greeting and faced each day in a positive, upbeat way.
“I told her, ‘Evelyn, you’re still getting out of that bed and walking to that chair,’” Shaunae says. “I’ll do your nails, and we’ll converse.” Shaunae also called Evelyn’s family every day, so they could video-chat with Evelyn.
Shaunae met Evelyn’s extended family in February, before COVID-19 hit the U.S., when they came for a very special celebration of their relative’s 101st birthday. The entire family was effusive in thanking Shaunae for the care she was providing to Evelyn. “Everyone said, ‘Oh, you’re the one taking care of Little Grandma. Thank you! You’re doing such a wonderful job, everyone’s talking about you,’” she recalls.
Shaunae embodies the mission of both VNSNY and of hospice care, to elevate a person’s quality of life at the end of life. “It feels good, knowing that you’re making the rest of their days easier,” Shaunae says of clients on hospice. “Evelyn had a lot of spunk. She was the sweetest lady you can imagine—unless you tried to force her to do something she didn’t want to do!”
When Evelyn contracted COVID and passed away earlier this month, the family once again expressed their gratitude for Shaunae’s care and commitment during these trying times. “They said, ‘Not everyone would come to the nursing home when there was COVID,’” Shaunae says. “But if I didn’t come in, who would take care of her? I promised to stay as long as I possibly could. That’s just me.”
Stacey D. is another Partners in Care home health aide who goes above and beyond in her commitment to her client, traveling over an hour each way by train from the Bronx to Manhattan to help an 89-year-old Manhattan woman with dementia safely navigate her afternoons.
“I made the choice years ago that this is what I wanted to do,” says Stacey, who moved to New York City a decade ago from Jamaica, where she had been a massage therapist. “I know that difficulties come with the job,” she adds. “But I pray each morning before I come out, take the necessary precautions, and leave it at that. What are you going to do, run away? You can’t do that.”
Her Partners in Care supervisor, Gavin H., praises Stacey’s reliability—an especially valuable commodity in these times of great uncertainty. “Stacey’s extremely dependable, committed, and pleasant,” Gavin says. “That makes life easier for all of us during these tough times. So many of our aides have really stepped up, and we truly appreciate them.”
Candy P., who became a Partners in Care home health aide last fall, embraces the opportunity to provide care for her client in Washington Heights. Six days a week, the two speak Spanish together and share companionship during this crisis. “This pandemic is a moment to reflect, to value our families, be grateful for our elderly, and give more love,” says Candy, who recently emigrated from the Dominican Republic. “Now more than ever, it is important for those of us caring for others to have empathy and compassion—to walk in somebody else’s shoes.”
Candy’s supervisor, Xiomara A., praises her dependability as part of the organization’s overall mission. “Candy is always punctual, even on Saturdays, and her clients adore her.” New York City’s Latino community has been especially impacted by the COVID-19 virus, and both Candy and Xiomara are proud to be able to serve in these difficult times. “With VNSNY and Partners in Care, there’s so much to say about all that we’re able to give,” Xiomara says, “but one word will do: Caring.”
* The client’s name has been changed for privacy.