WEST ROCKHILL — It's not unusual for staff working at the Community at Rockhill retirement community to stay over if needed when there's a blizzard or some other type of severe weather.

“That's typical in this industry,” said Linda Pancio, director of marketing and communications for Grace Inspired Ministries, which includes the Community at Rockhill and Lutheran Community at Telford.

“But this is extraordinary,” she said on the first day of May — the 23rd day that four of the employees were temporarily living at Community at Rockhill, rather than going home at the end of their shift, while caring for residents in the Health Care section who tested positive for COVID-19.

“They're willing to sacrifice their own family life in order to care for the residents that need it the most,” Pancio said.

In the more than three weeks the employees had not been home, they had also not been able to have in-person contact with family and friends because visitors are not allowed for the protection of residents during the pandemic, she said. 

After finding out about the first case of a resident with the coronavirus, an isolation unit was set up, Pancio said.

Four nurses, four certified nursing assistants and one housekeeper, all of whom volunteered to work exclusively in the unit, are working there, she said. The four temporarily living at the Community at Rockhill are a nurse, two CNAs and the housekeeper, she said. Some of those doing so have family members at home who are health compromised, she said.

“They didn't want to take the risk of maybe bringing something into their home,” she said.

The four are living in the former adult day center, which closed last year, she said.

“It has a full kitchen and it lends itself very well to having people stay there,” she said.

After the maintenance department set up the area, the people temporarily living there painted on partitions to help personalize their area, she said.

Assistant Director of Nursing Eryn Odell brought her cat “Slim” in to help give emotional support and calmness to the staff members caring for the COVID positive residents, Pancio said. The daughter of another staff member has set up an Instagram page (Slimstagram_thecat) for Slim, she said.

Additional pets were added when other staff members brought three fish, she said. Other signs of support have included thank you notes from family members of residents, Easter baskets from other staff members and meals, she said.

A barbecue grill was also moved outside, she said.

“Their supervisor actually made them a steak dinner the other night,” Pancio said.

Information about COVID-19, including test results for the facilities, are posted on the websites of several local retirement communities, including the Community at Rockhill and Lutheran Community at Telford.

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