As the COVID-19 vaccine makes its way across the country and into the hands of those who need it most, many nursing homes and senior communities are anxiously waiting as they are the most vulnerable.
“I’m a true Okie from Muskogee, Oklahoma,” says 80-year-old Donna.
After 46 years, she and her 83-year-old husband Art made the decision to leave the countryside and move into a senior community. They chose one of the 26 Arrow Senior Living communities that are housed around the Midwest. Things were great until the pandemic hit.
“Since we live on the independent side, we do our own things. Until this COVID hit, we came and went as we wanted to,”she said.
Their way of living is now completely different. No visits with their three sons. No extracurricular activities. They're diligent about masks and about the proper public health measures to prevent the virus.
“It's a big concern, we know this is a killer,” Donna said. “Some get a light case and some are asymptomatic and you never who’s going to get the serious case.”
Which is why she's anxiously waiting for the vaccine. She remembers when the polio vaccine came out and said it was wonderful.
"I don’t remember people questioning it, being afraid of having it so much then as some people today but I don’t know why they’d even question it with the horrible pandemic we’ve been having,” Donna said.
Stephanie Harris, CEO of Arrow Senior Living said “absolutely” when asked if she would get the vaccine. Harris says her employees will get it too. In all, nearly 4,000 people between residents and staff will need to be vaccinated.
“We have been blown away at how overwhelming the response has been by our resident group, over 90% of our residents, when we surveyed them, said ‘yes’ to vaccination,” says Harris.
They're not first in line, but they're not far off. They have clinics scheduled for late December, and they're excited.
“I’m tired of being cooped up and taking extraordinary precautions to ensure that I could be here in this seat to support our larger operation and I want to be able to get on with some sense of normal,” Harris said.
Harris added this recent surge has been brutal and it's taking an emotional toll on everyone.
Holiday gatherings have been canceled, important events missed during a time when grandparents should be spending with grandkids. It's caused Arrow Senior Living to take extraordinary precautions, deploying things like mask detection technology to determine whether face coverings are being utilized. There's not one community in their network that hasn't been touched by COVID-19.
“This is going to be a strange Christmas, we’re accepting it,” Donna said. “We have three sons but they’re all doing their thing. They didn’t feel like it was safe to travel and we’ll be having Christmas here.”