Christina Candido, MSDA Class of 2005, is the Executive Director of Sunrise Senior Living of Morris Plains, New Jersey. In her role, Christina’s job essentially is to make sure the 70 residents of Sunrise Senior Living are safe, well cared for, happy and loved. In addition, she oversees 73 employees, and notes that she is fortunate to have an incredible team. Of life before COVID19, Christina noted, “There was constant action (well, until around 8PM 😄): residents ate all meals in our restaurant-style dining room, we had activities and outings all day long, our beauty salon was always packed, and families visited frequently (some every single day!).”
Christina commented that no two days are ever the same in senior living, but work before COVID19 was a lot different than it is now. “Since mid-March, we've been on total lock down. Residents have to self-isolate in their apartments and ALL team members wear masks, regardless of whether or not they provide hands-on care. Visitors are prohibited and the door to the building remains locked 24/7. The only connection to the outside world is through FaceTime, which we spend a lot of time doing one-on-one. We use full PPE when caring for residents with any hint of a symptom and have to be screened before we can clock in. Our residents' temperatures are taken twice a day and they wear masks when receiving care. I'm in the community on average 12 hours a day, and make it a point to call families at LEAST weekly. Honesty and open communication is key.”
When remarking on what she is experiencing in her role as an essential service and care provider in the days of COVID19, Christina said, “We kept the virus out for WEEKS, until April 7 when we had our first confirmed case (we're now up to three). The health department said we were the last facility in the county to have a positive, but it still felt like a punch in the gut. We're doing everything we possibly can to shield our residents (who are truly extended grandmas and grandpas to us) from harm, so it's impossible to not take it personally when one gets sick. Our families have been extremely supportive, but they're also itching for us ease up on restrictions; the emotional and social impact COVID is having on our residents is devastating, especially those with dementia/Alzheimer's. It's a tough balance and although I'm careful not to show it, I'm terrified.”
With communities like Sunrise Senior Living caring for some of the most vulnerable individuals among us – the wonderful seniors so devastatingly impacted by this virus - Christina is providing critical care, working to prevent new infections while still maintaining a high quality of life for her residents. “We'll never stop fighting. It's so important for people to know that despite what the media portrays and how horrible the nursing home/assisted living industry is getting hit, we're doing everything we can, and these seniors aren't alone. Their families can't be with them but WE'RE here and I promise, the love in these facilities is palpable.” Thank you, Christina, for your service and for providing your residents with high quality care, compassion, love and virtual connectedness with their families.