Watch the full short film, “Closed Doors, Open Hearts: Nursing Homes and COVID-19.”

​​​​​​As COVID-19 spread among the extremely vulnerable senior population, long term care communities across the nation grappled with some of the hardest decisions they’ve ever faced. These challenges and the heroes that fought to keep long term care residents safe during the pandemic are highlighted in a new, short documentary produced by the American Health Care Association (AHCA), “Closed Doors, Open Hearts: Nursing Homes and COVID-19.” 

The film provides an intimate look at how two facilities dealt with the challenges and tragedy of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also celebrates long term care staff who are true heroes for continuing to show up day after day even in the face of personal risk.

The two facilities featured in the film are very different, yet both shared many of the same experiences throughout the pandemic.

On March 6, 2020, staff at Ararat Nursing Facility in Los Angeles closed and locked its doors, limiting visitors to the facility due to the rapid spread of COVID-19. On the opposite side of the country, leadership at The Edgewood Centre in Portsmouth, N.H., faced the same dilemma of how best to protect residents and staff from the deadly virus. They, too, made the difficult decision to deny visitor access. The decisions were neither easy nor unique to these two facilities.

“I’ve been here almost 30 years, and our door has never been locked,” said Patricia Cummings, MHA, LNHA, LNA, Administrator at The Edgewood Centre. “The day that Edgewood, a facility that not only prided itself on family involvement but almost in a symbiotic way relied on family involvement to keep the wheels of Edgewood going, closed our doors to essentially a third of what makes Edgewood, Edgewood.”

Ararat Nursing Facility is a nonprofit organization founded in 1949 that operates three residential care and nursing facilities on two campuses and serves as a cultural center for the Armenian community in the Los Angeles area. It has grown into a dynamic establishment, providing a home for over 400 residents and serving as a multi-purpose community center in the north end of the San Fernando Valley.

The Edgewood Centre is a family-owned, 150-bed senior care and rehab facility with the mission to provide resident-driven care. It was built in 1972 by the Ramsey family, and several Ramsey family members have also been residents there. It is currently owned by Patricia Ramsey and is an important part of the small seacoast community in Portsmouth.

Despite repeated requests for assistance, long term care facilities were not made a priority by public health agencies. Like many providers across the country, Ararat and Edgewood faced inadequate and delayed testing and a shortage of personal protective equipment.

In the face of incredible obstacles, staff continued to care for residents when they were needed most. They became family when families couldn’t physically be there.

“This is what we chose to be,” said Susan Yeranyan, RN, BS, CDP, Director of Clinical Services at Ararat Nursing Facility. “This is what we chose to do. Nobody forced us to do that, but we did it—with smiles on our faces, with strength, with hope that this will be over one day.”