The Little Sisters of the Poor have cared for their elderly and infirm residents through two world wars, the Spanish flu pandemic, the Great Depression and numerous natural disasters.
Now, as the COVID-19 coronavirus spreads around the globe, the Little Sisters’ fourth vow of hospitality to the elderly poor is bringing them to the forefront in the fight to protect those most at risk from the virus.
“One of the most challenging pieces of this is that it’s a constantly changing situation,” Little Sister Constance Veit told the Register. “You can think that you kind of have things under control, and then it gets amped up, and what you might have arranged for one afternoon the next morning has to be changed again as the situation becomes more serious.”
Experts have warned that the elderly are at a greater risk than the young of dying from COVID-19. And some of the very first U.S. patients to test positive were residents at a long-term nursing facility in Kirkland, Washington. When their test results came back on Feb. 28, the U.S. had not yet confirmed a single death attributed to the virus.
Today, despite more stringent regulations and protocols governing daily life at nursing homes, the virus has claimed lives at the Kirkland home and other facilities, and the Little Sisters’ residences are no exception. Residents and Little Sisters in the U.S., as well as in France and Spain, have contracted the virus, and several residents have died, the order confirmed.
On March 26, an 86-year-old man at the Little Sisters’ Jeanne Jugan Residence in Newark, Delaware, died from the virus, and six more tested positive. The man had lived at the home for 12 years.
Protocols to protect the residents from COVID-19 had been instated weeks earlier, but residents in the home were already infected.
In his final moments, the man’s daughter was able to spend time with him, while his grandchildren came to the window of his room. New government regulations prohibiting visitors to facilities such as the Little Sisters’ homes make an exception for those visiting the dying.
“He really loved it here,” Mother Margaret Regina Halloran, superior for the residence in Newark told The Dialog, the newspaper for the Diocese of Wilmington.
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