Some long-term care centers for senior citizens have had coronavirus outbreaks in Missouri and nationwide. Missouri Veterans Commission Executive Director Grace Link says she thinks the state’s seven veterans homes have gone above and beyond the private sector to help protect residents and staff. Link tells Missourinet the homes began restricting visitors the day Missouri had its first likely positive case and they have stopped admitting new residents.

Grace Link (Photo courtesy of Missouri Veterans Commission)

“Then we immediately – same time frame – started building quarantine areas as well as isolation areas,” says Link. “A quarantine area is going to be used if we are testing a veteran and awaiting test results and we suspect they may have covid. If that result were to be positive, then they will go to an isolation area. We have personal protective equipment from head to toe for the staff that will be designated to that particular area.”

Link says the restrictions are in the best interest of everyone involved.

“I definitely think they go above and beyond. I don’t know if the private sector homes have the capability really or space in their homes to build quarantine areas that are separate from their rooms,” says Link.

The St. Louis veterans home has had one resident die and three workers there have tested positive.

“And part of the reason why we are going above and beyond is because we don’t want this to happen to anyone,” she says.

Link says the employees infected were direct care staff. Veterans in the area where they worked were quarantined.

“We did not experience any type of outbreak or that it had passed to anyone else,” she says.

Employees are also questioned and have their temperature checked before and after each shift. The homes have stopped allowing some vendors from entering the homes and residents are spread out in dining areas. An infectious disease doctor is also on call at the St. Louis home and to assist the other homes.

To help keep in touch with loved ones and to keep the spirits up of veterans, workers have turned to technology. Residents have changed their minds over time.

“Initially, they didn’t want to have anything to do with Facetime – the majority of them. They just wanted to talk on the phone,” Link chuckles. “Then as time went on, they actually wanted to see their loved ones. So they decided ‘Yeah, we’ll go ahead and try. What’s this Facetime all about and Skype and those different things?’ So they have transitioned.”

Link says the direct care workers are “truly heroes serving heroes.”

“When most people right now don’t want to go near a nursing home because of all the stories you see in the news, our employees come to work every day. They are dedicated,” she says. “And when you’re actually inside the home, it’s unbelievable how peaceful it is and the loving care that they provide the veterans, the elderly that most people turn away from. I always thought the world of them before but now I have an even higher respect for them.”

Missouri also has veterans homes in Cameron, Cape Girardeau, St. James, Warrensburg, Mount Vernon and Mexico. The state has about 1,230 beds at its the homes.