Throughout the pandemic, as parts of our programs had to close down and we had to shift, the greatest thing is the way we have all worked together.”
Hotchkiss, Colorado – February, 2021
My name is Christa Coats and I’m the Director of Clinical Operations for Senior Community Care PACE Colorado. I’ve worked with Senior Community Care PACE since 2012. I began my full-time career with PACE as a home care nurse and then became Home Care Supervisor, Nurse Manager and Integrated Care Manager.
The PACE model allows for seniors to live out the final chapters of their life in their home—if they so choose. As the person overseeing daily clinical operations, I also oversee the Personal Care Services department. This department now includes what was our Day Center department where seniors can go during the day and socialize and receive care. It works great for seniors who live with family members who work everyday. It provides the seniors with the supervision and personal care services they need. It’s a great model, unless there’s a pandemic.
During the pandemic, our day center had to close down and change to a home-based model. For those seniors in our program who have problems such as dementia and cannot be at home alone, some had to move into our long-term care facilities. This was particularly hard on them and difficult for some to understand. It was heartbreaking to see them in this isolation and away from their loved ones.
Having worked in the long-term care facilities as the Integrated Care Manager, I was one of the few members of our team allowed to go into the facility. To see the loneliness and families trying to see their loved ones through outside windows—it was difficult to witness.
The beginning of the pandemic was the most frightening for me. As I watched on television what was happening in major cities and the growing death tolls, it caused major anxiety and wondering whether or not it was going to impact rural Colorado, where I am. As various employees and participants got the virus, I worried about bringing it home to my family.
There was a lot of stress and anxiety. Fortunately, I live in Colorado where many people live an outdoors lifestyle so I could snowmobile, hunt and fish and enjoy the great outdoors where I don’t have to worry as much about being socially distant.
When the virus finally hit in rural Colorado, we were behind a lot of areas in the rest of the country. Fortunately, one of my co-workers had the insight to purchase PPE in advance. While many in Colorado were wondering if it would reach us, she was on Amazon and websites buying up PPE. We’ve had plenty of protection this whole time.
The hardest part for me was when we lost our first resident to the virus. He was a resident at one of the long-term care facilities. He was healthy and active and the virus took him way too early in his life. That was particularly difficult for all of us. The other impact that the virus had on me personally was when my youngest son was in a major dirt biking accident. He was flown to Denver where my husband and I spent 2 weeks with him. No other family members or visitors were allowed to come into the hospital. Once he stabilized enough to be able to go outside we were still not allowed to leave the hospital campus. This was incredibly difficult on our other boys and extended family. It was also very difficult for our son who really needed the in-person support of his friends and family. Our son has since fully recovered but that was definitely the most challenging impact that the pandemic has had on me and my family personally.
Throughout the pandemic, as parts of our programs had to close down and we had to shift, the greatest thing is the way we have all worked together. The pandemic has solidified the team. It didn’t matter to any of us as to who had which responsibilities as we have all stepped up to do whatever has been needed. We’ve maintained our mission in helping our participants. As individuals had to stay home and quarantine, we’ve all filled in wherever we’re needed.
We’ve also had regular testing, quarantine and contact tracing. Now, many staff members and residents are getting vaccinated and are looking forward to the day when our seniors will be able to spend time with their loved ones once again and not have to endure such loneliness and isolation.