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This story was told by Christine Reilly, chief executive officer at The Boston Home in Dorchester, and has been transcribed and edited from a conversation with Kristi Palma.
My name is Christine Reilly and I’m the chief executive officer at The Boston Home in Dorchester. Certainly, my days have been quite different recently. What used to start off as chatting with the residents at morning coffee and news and making rounds is now lots of conference calls and zoom meetings and working on more complex things such as securing the appropriate PPE to have in the building to care for our residents during this unprecedented time.
The staff are rightfully scared and they’re concerned for themselves and their families, yet they come to work every day and they truly provide outstanding care for our residents. And this is all levels of our staff: our licensed nurses, our certified nursing assistants, activities, dietary, environmental services, maintenance. It has been wonderful just to see the dedication to our residents.
We have a very small number [of residents who have tested positive for COVID-19], but my population has weakened immune systems so we’re extra cautious and we’re just hoping and praying every day just to stop the spread. We are certainly following every recommendation by both the CDC and the Department of Public Health, just to ensure that we have all the proper infection control practices in place. Fortunately, our numbers are low and we do want to keep it that way. What’s going on in the industry, it’s heartbreaking. So we’re hoping and praying that this will be behind us soon so that we can get back to normal.
Our community is a little different. We have a young population, primarily with advanced multiple sclerosis. And our average age here at The Boston Home is 60. And, probably, 35 to 40 percent of our residents have lived here for 10-plus years. So we’re truly a family. We have staff who have been here 25, 20, 15, 10-plus years. So it’s really a special community. I’m truly inspired every day by the resiliency of my staff and residents. They’re all heroes.
We’re trying to keep the spirits of our residents up. Just the other night we had a few residents participate in a Zoom passover. We are arranging for residents to FaceTime with their families and Skype. We’ve encouraged families to send in video messages. The families were used to visiting daily, so this has been very difficult for them. Our residents are now quarantined to their rooms. My residents are used to going down to the library, they’re used to going to restaurants, concerts, sporting events, the casino. I have a very vibrant resident population. So this has been very difficult, to be confined to your room. They’re truly inspiring. Despite each of them battling with advanced multiple sclerosis, they’re strong. They’re really giving us the strength to get through each and every day.
We got our staff T-shirts that we gave out [that say] ‘The Boston Home, stronger than ever.’ The mood in the building, despite everything that’s going on, is very upbeat. The Boston Home truly is home. It’s warm and loving and the staff are incredible. I’ve been in health care for 30-plus years, and this is a family. We’re going to get through this. And we’ll be stronger on the other end.