1. Altima, Claudia HHA

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It is not easy working and living in New York City-the epicenter of the pandemic. But the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, which my agency, Partners in Care, is part of, has served the community for over 125 years, and it's not going to stop now. I wanted to write up my experiences as a home health aide who was providing care throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and it took me a while to get to it-but now I have time since I am in quarantine. After my cough started and I called into the agency's COVID-19 Clinical Experts Response team, I was told that I need to stay home for at least 14 days. I now have some shortness of breath and weakness, but I don't feel too bad.


Every morning before I would head out, I completed a symptom checklist online. This is required for all Partners in Care field staff. I used to have to go to the office to pick up personal protective equipment (PPE), but now supplies are being sent to our homes. I was worried a couple weeks ago when my supplies were low, as I didn't want to spend extra time on the subway. I received a delivery just in time, however. The subway rides make me nervous. There are fewer trains coming because fewer people are working, which means a longer time waiting on the platform and crowded subway cars. Everyone is supposed to wear masks but not everyone does.


Prepandemic, I was working full time caring for clients in a hospice housed within a nursing home. These hours have now been cut, as we need to wear full PPE in the residences and are only allowed to do this for 2 hours at a time. I am now picking up cases in the postacute care program. We received training on how to use PPE properly via a weblink video. There are different guidelines with different levels of PPE for those who are COVID-19 positive and for those who are negative. I have a mask for traveling but I switch to clinical PPE when I get to the client's home. After a shift, I put the mask in a bag with the client's name and only use it when I see them. I have a mask for each client. Donning and doffing-who knew that these would become common words in our vocabulary?


I have been filling in on postacute cases when the regularly assigned home health aide is out. I have been trying to get two 4-hour shifts per day when available, but many clients are refusing care. Understandably, everyone is so nervous about getting COVID-19, but I worry about how they are doing. I have been working as a home health aide for over 15 years, and I know how much our clients need us. Some have more family around now with the stay-at-home order, but most of the clients I serve live alone. The last client I saw before I developed my cough didn't cancel the visit, but I could tell she was uneasy having me in her home. She allowed me to do meal preparation and cleaning, but didn't want to be touched. She was unsteady on her feet, so I just made sure to be close so she wouldn't fall. My afternoon client cancelled, so I went home, and I've been here ever since.


Postscript: I stayed in quarantine for the required 14 days and feel better, so I never went for testing. My first day back was in the middle of the Black Lives Matter protests all around New York City. Things were even more hectic than usual, but I am glad to be back.