Home and long-term care facility workers take care of Anne Arundel’s high-risk population during coronavirus crisis

Akeesha Dotson, a nursing home nurse, is staying safe during coronavirus outbreak.

Nurses, caregivers and certified nursing assistants that visit clients in their homes or in long-term care facilities are used to taking care of day-to-day needs but the coronavirus pandemic has made them step up in ways they aren’t used to.


While they normally take care of cooking, cleaning and bathing, they have isolated themselves outside of work and taken on additional responsibilities to protect patients, which are typically a high risk population for contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Confirmed cases of the coronavirus in nursing homes, assisted living and other congregate living facilities, make up more than half of the state’s cases. Visitation to residents in these facilities has been restricted.


For caretakers visiting clients’ homes, Rita Cook, owner of Griswold Home Care based out of Severna Park, said the thing that has mostly changed is the mental aspect.

“Clients are nervous that caregivers may bring things to them and the caregivers are nervous. But, they have been very strong and keeping them calm," she said.

Griswold Home Care ribbon cutting (Left to Right) Sherran Thomas, On Call Coordinator; Brianna Cook, Assistant Care Coordinator;  a member of the chamber; Rita Cook Owner/Director with the scissors; a member of the chamber; and Manisha Shrestha, Manager.

“A lot of clients are isolated during these times, because they have children that live out of town and the caregivers are the only ones that can see them,” Cook said. “Our caregivers are lessening that isolating feeling as well.”

Kristina Johnson, owner of Annapolis-based Angel Care Network, even has some caregivers that are going out to grocery shop for their patients.

“All the caregivers are COVID-19 trained and we are following all the CDC guidelines,” Johnson said. “Everyone has taken on the responsibility of helping. We don’t want them to go into the grocery store.”

Cook believes the depression rate is going up for clients, since they can’t leave their homes like they normally would.

“We have a lot of clients that enjoy going out. The women enjoy getting hair done and going shopping,” Cook said. “Caregivers are helping do clients’ hair more which the client wouldn’t normally ask them to do that, since they are going to the hairdresser. Caregivers are even doing nails to make them feel like they are still within their norm.”


Caregivers schedules have adjusted just as much as their clients.

“They know the older population is the highest risk, so they go to clients’ home and straight home and nowhere else,” Cook said. “Some of them don’t do their own grocery shopping because they don’t want to contract it or give it to their clients. I think that is a real trooper.”

Glen Burnie resident Akeesha Dotson, a CNA at a nursing home, said her daily life has changed drastically.

“When I come home from work I strip down from everything I was wearing for the day. I keep a bag by the door and put all the clothes in the bag,” Dotson said. “That is very different, then I go straight to the shower and make sure everything is off. Then when I am home I am pretty much quarantined in for the day. I also check my temperature when I get home and before I leave out.”

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Dotson goes to work every day because she feels like this is what she is meant to do.

“This is what God set me up to do, he put me in the nursing field and I have been doing for six years,” Dotson said. “I love what I do and I love my residents. It is a risk, but every day we left out the house before corona was a risk as well.”


Cook believes health care workers that are entering patients’ homes and nursing homes aren’t getting the credit they deserve.

“I have enough clients that if my caregivers weren’t going in there, that they would be dead today,” Cook said. “They would have no one to cook their food, no one to remind them of their meds and I have a lot that are fall risk. We may be more hands on than the nurses in hospitals and caregivers deserve to be recognized."

Cook and Johnson wanted to thank all the front line workers during these times. They make up a part of the work force of health care workers being celebrated during National Nurses Week that began Wednesday.

“I take my hat off to them. I am so proud of my caregivers and it is unbelievable how proud I am,” Cook said. “I think it takes a strong person to be out there day in and day out, just to make sure their clients are well taken care of and they’re not even their family.”

Johnson added, “It is incredible what they are doing, they should be honored really every day. It is a hard job taking care of people and they are doing amazing.”