The World According to Dr. El

The World According to Dr. El by Eleanor Feldman Barbera, Ph.D.

We need staff… NOW

Last year, as the pandemic raged in New York City and sirens filled the air, a group of young travel nurses arrived to assist weary long-term care teams. They took over nursing stations that had been depleted due to positive COVID tests and allowed healthy staffers working doubles to get some rest. They gave us…

Reducing the impact of cascading collective trauma in LTC

I spent most of last weekend doing what I could to avoid the 9/11-related headlines in the news. With my Manhattan-below-14th-Street recollections of the event, last year’s immersion in the pandemic epicenter and the continuing pandemic, I didn’t have the bandwidth for it.  What I did find the energy for was a Speaking of Psychology…

How to keep working in LTC (when you’re not sure how much more you can take)

When I speak to long-term care groups, whether to those in leadership positions or to direct care staff, it’s clear that virtually all the audience members have been drawn to the industry because of their love of elders. The travails of the past year and a half, however, have likely depleted the energy and enthusiasm…

Staff‌ ‌recruitment,‌ ‌retention,‌ ‌upskilling‌ ‌and‌ ‌savings‌ ‌

As the editors of the June 2021 volume of The Gerontologist put it, “Workforce issues are the most significant challenges facing the long-term care industry.”  This special edition of the journal focuses on the long-term care workforce, examining factors that increase staff retention and mining the circumstances of the pandemic for clues to stabilizing the…

Vaccines: Saving face

I watched warily as Leo wheeled his cart onto the elevator with me, his mask below his nose. He used to pull it up when he saw me, mindful of the many conversations we’d had about getting the vaccine, but lately he’d become a full “Noser.”  A Noser is my term for people who wear…

Foster relationships to improve staff retention

“God bless you,” an aide said to me the other day after I handed her a container of homemade green bean salad. She’d joined the same psychology-based weight loss program I was using and the green beans were my way of supporting her efforts. She went on. “Some of the doctors don’t even say hello…

Once upon a time, before profit ruled the land, there were missions

In the old days, Young Readers, before the goal of eldercare was merely profit, nursing homes used to have things called “missions.” Missions focused on the well-being of the elders they cared for — not only their physical well-being but also their emotional and spiritual health.  Back then, facilities often catered to a specific clientele,…

My look: Forever changed by the pandemic?

For my first 20-plus years as a long-term care psychologist, I arrived on the job wearing not just clothes, but outfits. I chose garb that contributed to the sense of “expertness, attractiveness, and trustworthiness” that psychologists were supposed to engender in their patients.  Sometimes I wore pantsuits or dresses, more often skirts or slacks with…

5 strategies to promote mental health in long-term care

Last week, tennis superstar Naomi Osaka chose to forgo mandatory but anxiety-producing post-event press interviews to protect her mental health. She was fined $15,000 by tennis officials and, after being threatened with expulsion from the French Open, withdrew from the event.  This decision by the world’s highest-paid female athlete has thrust the importance of emotional…

Post-pandemic population may require higher staffing levels

Before the pandemic, residents were admitted for rehabilitation following elective surgery or a health crisis. The rehab residents either returned home or joined the group of long-term residents who had previously arrived in a similar fashion.  Now, as the threat of COVID-19 recedes from long-term care, we are left with empty beds from a reduction…

5 ways to reduce late-pandemic staff burnout

Most residents and workers are vaccinated and COVID-19 rates in nursing homes have plummeted, so everything should be great, right? According to a recent article in StatNews, not quite. In “As the Covid-19 crisis ebbs in the U.S., experts brace for some to experience psychological fallout,” author Andrew Joseph reports that it’s only after an…

The pandemic narrative, a tool for mental health

Comparisons between April 2020 and April 2021 are surprisingly jolting in some ways. Not until I composed this blog did I fully realize how far we’ve come, regarding pandemic conditions, and life in general.

Anticipating anniversary reactions

The coronavirus was officially declared a pandemic one year ago this month. The news is filled with articles reflecting on the dramatic changes in our lives from last year to this — lost jobs, remote school, canceled events, illness.  For those in long-term care, this week last year began the pandemic visitor restrictions, and for…

Is your facility prepared for returning families?

If all goes well, over the next few weeks there will be an increasing number of family members visiting their loved ones in the nursing home, many for the first time in a year. Along with the joy and relief of these reunions, we can expect to observe a great deal of sadness over time…

The emotional impact of pandemic secrecy

As a geropsychologist and a New Yorker, I’ve been relieved to see the after-the-fact uncovering of the true number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes in New York last year.

We’re vaccinated. Now what?

Across the country, long-term care facilities are vaccinating their staff and residents, with approximately 3.1 million doses delivered as of last week and rates of COVID-19 infection in nursing home residents declining for the past four weeks.  This excellent news leads to questions about how the vaccination rollout will impact the daily lives of staff…

Addressing vaccine hesitancy

The first of the month, the COVID-19 vaccine arrived at the facility where I work. In the days before its arrival, the “campus” was buzzing with conversation about who was getting the shot, who wasn’t and why.  Throughout U.S. nursing homes, an average of 29% of long-term care workers have been hesitant to accept the…

The Equalizer: A holiday story from the ‘Before’ time

She told me about her life via handwritten notes and the occasional use of a talking computer that verbalized what she painstakingly typed out. “I’ve been a cripple ever since I got polio as a girl. I never had a job.”
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