In a year like none other, the holiday season can be especially hard in long term and post-acute care centers, where elderly residents and those with disabilities are limited from seeing loved ones in person due to COVID-19. Luckily, dedicated and supportive nurses and caregivers, many of whom have known and cared for the residents for years, naturally fall into the role of daughter, son, or friend.

Brenda KincaidBrenda Kincaid is a licensed practical nurse (LPN) with Virginia Health Services, based in Newport News, Va. At The Huntington, an assisted living community, and The Newport, a rehabilitation center, she’s formed a number of bonds with residents over the years, who treat her as family.

“It’s a very close relationship, especially with restrictions that we’ve had this year with visitors coming in,” says Kincaid. “And, they rely on us. We’re sort of filling in for their family right now. We are like a big family.”

It’s a natural fit for someone who chooses a career in caring for others. Kincaid stresses that the center is home for many residents, especially those receiving long term care.

“We’re really dedicated to treating them as a whole person,” she says. “That’s not a patient. It’s a resident. You know, this is their home, and we’re coming into it. And we want to bring good things into that.”

Kim Randolph, a fellow LPN at Virginia Health Services who works at Northampton Convalescent and Rehab Center in Hampton, Va., couldn’t agree more. She originally planned to only work in long term care for a year, but because of one resident, she stayed for close to 20 years.

“You become that family for them,” says Randolph. “You have your own family that you take care of at home, but then when you leave home in the morning, you have another family that you have to take care of. And just like you leave your family at home, you leave them for the night, and you come back in the morning to take care of them.” 

Kim RudolphThere’s usually one or more people in a family that everyone counts on to give a helping hand or nudge in the right direction. In long term care, the story is no different.

“We provide them with, you know, that little love and that passion, you know, that little laugh,” says Randolph. “And, even sometimes those that are here just for rehab. We also provide that push for them. ‘Hey, you can do this. You can.’ And sometimes they need to hear that.”

Kincaid’s and Randolph’s stories are front and center of an advertising campaign from the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), the nation’s largest association of long term and post-acute care providers.

The ads, “Family” and “Oath,” feature caregivers from multiple Virginia Health Services (VHS) facilities talking about how long term care staff have cared for nursing home and assisted living residents in the face of what may be their most challenging circumstance yet—COVID. Their roles have become even more critical to helping those residents continue to thrive despite the obstacles, including visitor restrictions.

“We become that person for them,” says Randolph. “We become mom, we become brother. We become sister, aunt. We become all of those for them.

“It’s been rough during COVID. You know, you have the patient who cries because they can’t see their loved one. So, and then you go, and although with nursing we’re busy, but you have to stop and just pull up a chair and sit, hold a hand, and just talk. It may be about nothing, but just talking.”

The ads are currently running through the end of 2020 on select cable networks and digital platforms and are supplemented by local buys from AHCA/NCAL state affiliates.

But, no matter the season, the day-to-day dynamics and the focus remain the same.

“All shift, every day, their safety, their health, and their happiness are three things that we’re working on 24/7, every day of the year,” says Kincaid. “Holidays, whatever, every day is the same there. We know that’s our mission, and we’re focusing on that.”