Hope on the horizon as long-term care worker set to receive COVID-19 vaccine

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NOBLESVILLE, Ind. – A woman who works at a long-term care facility is sharing what changes she hopes the COVID-19 vaccine will bring.   

Long-term care facilities have been hit hard by the coronavirus, and the people there have been prioritized to be among the first to receive the vaccine. 

CarDon and Associates’ Director of Clinical Navigation Stephanie Ingalls will get the vaccine Friday morning. She’s hoping it will save lives and allow them to get back to normalcy. 

“Having to wear all the PPE, you can’t have that human connection. The hugging of the residents — or them to see your smiles and you to see their smiles. It’s all hidden behind off that PPE,” said Ingalls. 

More than half of COVID-19 deaths in the state are attributed to residents of long-term care.  

The President of the Indiana Healthcare Association, Zach Cattell, said while it’s important and will hopefully change things, it’s won’t happen overnight.  He says it will still be important for people to follow public health recommendations as the vaccine is rolled out.  

But eventually, he hopes it will provide aid for those who have been caring for the residents in these facilities. 

“The staff that provides service in the long-term care facilities are extraordinarily burdened both with all of the work that’s required to care for individuals, but also with the grief that has come with losing residents that they have cared for, for many weeks months or even years,” said Cattell. 

The Indiana Healthcare Association expects long-term care professionals will be able to go to a local hospital to get vaccinated. Residents will be vaccinated through clinics at their facilities.  

Researchers expect to see hospitalizations and deaths impacted in the next few months as the vaccine starts to rollout across the state. 

Healthcare workers and vaccinators are being treated first with the hopes that they will stay healthy enough to continue to treat people and vaccinate others. Residents of long-term care facilities will be next because they are considered the next most vulnerable group. 

Ingalls said it was an easy decision to make when the time came to sign up to get the vaccine. 

“Not knowing maybe some of the side effects that may happen, what they’ve posted as some of the side effects, that doesn’t really worry me. I’d rather have a couple of days of feeling kind of crappy than having COVID and exposing residents to that. So, I’m not really nervous about that,” Ingalls said. 

She says the biggest impact the pandemic has had is it has limited the way they have been able to socialize with the resident.  

“I’m glad that we were a part of that priority because it’s important for those residents and so that we can get back to that human connection and that normalcy of visitation and socialization because that’s been the biggest sacrifice that our residents have had to make.” 

Cattell said the vaccine will hopefully allow the residents to be reconnected with their loved ones, which in some cases, is needed for their health. 

“The cognitive issues, and dementia and Alzheimer’s — it’s extraordinarily important for those individuals to have frequent contact with their loved ones. That connection to memories is very important both for their health, both physical and mental,” said Cattell. 

Doctors say it will be months before the general public will be invited to get the vaccine. 

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