By Susan Winter Fledderus
A news article caught my attention this week. It tells of fifteen employees of a Montreal-area nursing home, Manoir Stanstead, who have moved in with the residents to spend their lockdown together.
This is the second time over the course of the pandemic that they have done so. So far, their commitment has kept the home free from a single case of COVID-19, a remarkable thing at a time when news headlines are dominated by stories of outbreaks and high numbers of deaths in Canadian seniors’ residences.
The staff have taken this step so that residents don’t have to remain locked in their rooms, something they deem unacceptable. Instead, by joining them in the home, residents can still access the dining room for meals and maintain contact with others.
One staff member, Faye Chamberlain, called it a small price to improve the day-to-day lives of the residents. She is quoted as saying, “People do it all the time, you think of people in the military that go overseas, so I think 30 days is a very, very small sacrifice to ensure their health and safety.”
This “very, very small sacrifice” means that the staff remain apart from their own families: spouses, children, grandchildren, and all the other comforts of home. And yet, there is hardly a mention of this in the article. Instead, the focus is on the needs of the residents, and the commitment to ensuring they remain safe physically as well as emotionally.
And this perhaps is one clue to what allows the staff to not only make such a sacrifice, but consider it “very, very small.” The focus isn’t on the staff members’ losses or preferences, but on the needs of the residents in their care.
To enable such self-sacrificial services, there has to be a certain mindset; a focus not on self, but on the other.
And this doesn’t come easily. All of us chafe under the current COVID-19 restrictions to some extent. All of us are forced to make sacrifices—some as small as wearing a mask in public, and some as big as cancelling a wedding or closing a business.
We can become very upset about these sacrifices, and the losses they entail—losses of personal freedoms, financial losses, losses of dreams. And while these losses are significant, an exclusive focus on them keep us unhappy or even resentful.
But sacrifices, even very very big ones, are enabled when we focus on the needs of others—those in more vulnerable health who might be shopping at the same time we are; the grandparents who we need to protect from COVID so they will be around to attend our postponed weddings; the universal need to limit to spread of the pandemic and save lives.
It is easier to hold that focus when surrounded by a team of like-minded people who are cheerfully making such sacrifices with us. I think this is another clue that helps us understand what enables the Manoir Stanstead staff to do so. They clearly have a workplace culture that cultivates this approach from the top. They value their residents highly, seeing them as family. They have buy-in from staff who are agreeing to the live-in arrangements. None of them have to go it alone.
When we are faced with hard choices and the need for personal sacrifices, knowing others are making similar sacrifices, or even bigger ones, can help us have the courage and readiness to make them ourselves.
Thank you to the staff at Manoir Stanstead for encouraging us all with what many of us would see as your very very big sacrifices, as we face sacrifices of various sizes of our own.
Susan Winter Fledderus is a Clinical Therapist with Shalem Mental Health Network