‘This woman is a warrior’

Senior living worker travels 1,000 miles helping communities affected by Covid-19

While many have halted travel plans in the midst of Covid-19, Jodie Brackett has kept her suitcase packed since the start of the pandemic. 

It isn’t vacations that have sent her nearly 1,000 miles in just a few months, though. Brackett has volunteered to be part of a strike team, heading into senior living communities facing an active Covid-19 outbreak to assist staff in caring for residents. 

“I always tell people my job is to bring the fun,” Brackett said of her life enrichment coordinator role. “I’m the one who does activities for the residents, and I absolutely love doing that. My job is to make people happy, to bring excitement and engagement to all our residents. That has been very different during Covid.” 

Brackett works at Somerset Court of Cherryville, an assisted living and memory care community in Cherryville, NC. She lives less than 20 minutes from that community, in a small rural town called Polkville, with her fiancé, son and daughter. 

When Covid-19 first became a threat in the U.S., Somerset Court of Cherryville implemented a series of strict infection-control measures, including visitor restrictions, use of personal protective equipment, and screening of all staff at the start of each shift. For Brackett’s community, these measures kept the virus at bay and the community was not faced with an outbreak. 

Despite implementing the same measures, a sister community of Cherryville’s was hit hard by Covid-19 early on. When the call came for volunteers from other communities to help Cherry Springs Village in their battle with Covid, Jodie was one of the first to sign up. 

(Read more about Cherry Springs: https://sterlingthemag.com/monster/)

“We fought a tough battle at Cherry Springs,” Brackett said. “We worked long hours, we wore a lot of extra equipment, and we lost people we cared for. It was hard, physically and mentally. I don’t think people who haven’t gone through it can really understand what it’s like to see Covid-19 attack vulnerable people right in front of you, and there’s just nothing you can do.” 

While working at Cherry Springs Village, 60 miles from her home, Brackett stayed in a hotel that had been reserved for staff members to help limit exposure to their families and others. She was there for more than 30 days. 

After fighting off Covid-19 herself and properly quarantining, Brackett spent just a few days at home with her family and then she was back on the road. This time, heading about 70 miles to Mint Hill, N.C. After a week helping there and following quarantine guidelines, she returned to her home community on May 22. On May 27, she was packed again, heading 242 miles from home to Wilson, N.C. She was there for more than 30 days. She returned home once again and quarantined as a precaution, finally returning to work at her home community on July 2. On July 12, she packed that suitcase again and headed 137 miles east, to Guilford House in Greensboro. She will stay there until at least July 31. 

Each community and the role Brackett has needed to fill has been different, she said, even down to the shifts she’s been assigned. Sometimes she works days, sometimes she works nights, and sometimes it’s a combination of both. Brackett has helped with family communication, one-on-activities, grooming and bathing, housekeeping, personal care needs for residents, and has even worked to coordinate volunteers from the greater community to bring meals to the staff to help with morale.

“I’ve really just tried to bring joy into these buildings,” Brackett said. “All of these residents and all of these staff are going through a hard time – Covid-19 is hard and it’s scary and I’ve seen it and I’ve felt it personally. I just want to do whatever I can to help, wherever that takes me.” 

Brackett’s impact on the residents and teams she is assisting is a lasting one. Families have sent messages of thanks and coworkers have turned to friends. But the experience has left its mark on her, too. 

“This experience has changed my life tremendously,” Brackett said. “In three short months I’ve seen so much sadness, but I also have experienced so much joy. At times I have to go outside and just sit and cry because it’s lonely, scary, and stressful — but everytime I feel like I can’t do it anymore I hear this sweet voice from a resident at Cherry Springs. She told me, ‘If I can’t give up, you can’t give up!’ These residents need me in these buildings, and just to hear them say, ‘Thank you’ or tell me they love me is priceless. I will forever be grateful to be given this opportunity.“

Brackett says she will keep her suitcase packed with clean scrubs and continue to travel and help wherever she is needed, for as long as she is needed. 

“This woman is a warrior,” said Stacy Farmer, executive director at Somerset Court of Cherryville. “She is not only an amazing life enrichment coordinator, but she has a heart of gold and is an incredible caregiver. She has a true passion for the work she does, and that passion shines through no matter how much PPE she is wearing. We miss her here at our community, but we are all proud of her for the work she is doing.”

About Sterling

Sterling is a magazine for the ageless, covering news and features from across the senior living industry. Our focus is on America’s seniors as well as those who care for them.

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