Gaston Co. family thanks social workers, long-term care employees for filling void during pandemic

Social workers help residents overcome isolation

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Health care workers have been hailed as heroes during the pandemic for the sacrifices they have made to care for others.

A Gaston County family is also thanking social workers and other employees of long-term care facilities for filling the void of not seeing their loved one in person for so long.

Mark Armstrong and his two sisters went almost an entire year without being able to hug their mother.

Couple hold hands, hug after year of physical distance due to COVID-19 pandemic

Glenda Armstrong, 86, lives at Courtland Terrace in Gastonia. Courtland Terrace is a CaroMont Health Nursing Home and Rehabilitation facility.

“We got an email from here saying they were going to stop visitations and then a year later you get to hug your mother again,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong and his sisters took turns visiting their mother through Facetime, outside of her window, and with plastic separating them.

Armstrong says it was hard on their family, but he knew it was also difficult for the employees at CaroMont Health who were trying to schedule so many visits under strict requirements.

“They’ve got 75-plus people here, “Armstrong said. “I’ve got two sisters and myself, times that by 75, that’s like 225 people they have to facilitate and get everyone a chance to visit with their loved ones.”

Armstrong says he was worried about his mother in between those brief video calls or window visits.

“Then you’re asking people that you don’t know who work here at CaroMont to fill that void,” Armstrong explained. “Talk to them, cut up with them, and keep that sense of humor going.”

Social Service workers are responsible for checking on the cognition, mood, and behavior of patients. There are two people in the social services department at Courtland Terrace.

Vonetta Brooks, Social Service Manager, says she noticed a lot of patients struggling with isolation.

“We saw issues with anxiety, depression, we had some patients that had a loss of appetite because of dealing with all that’s going on with the pandemic,” Brooks explained. “We’re used to giving support to the patients, but because the family members couldn’t come in physically, we actually started to counsel some of the family members.”

The activities team at Courtland Terrace scheduled activities and visits that could happen under the COVID-19 rules.

For example, residents got a visit from the ice cream truck and they got to shoot nerf guns in the courtyard.

Armstrong says those small activities made a difference.

“You’d be amazed at what it does for your mother,” Armstrong said. “From not wanting to get up to having an activity.”

Recently, Courtland Terrace started welcoming visitors for in-person visits with residents.

Armstrong and his sisters were able to hug their mother for the first time in nearly a year.

He credits social workers and the staff at Courtland Terrace for getting them through.

“It makes you appreciate the time you can spend with them. But more importantly, it makes you appreciate what people have done to make that possible,” Armstrong said.

Vonetta Brooks was recently named Gaston County Social Worker of the Year for 2020.

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