• LeadingAge New York

Bronx elder-care employee living at facility 24/7 during pandemic

Mom-of-two Katie Murphy Dedde, 37, has been living at her workplace, RiverWalk, an independent living facility on the campus of The Hebrew Home in Riverdale, The Bronx, and taking care of the elderly residents since April 5.

I knew I had to step up as soon as three of our team that looks after residents were sick with the coronavirus.

I told my husband, Thomas, a sanitation worker, that I’d be staying with them for as long as it takes. He just said: “There’s no point arguing.” He knows my work ethic. The same goes for my kids, Michaela, 14, and nine-year-old Thomas Emmett.

My parents live with us, and my mom has dementia, so it made sense to protect both my family and the home’s residents by quarantining myself at work.

I’m staying in a 550-square-foot “model” apartment that is normally used by people doing a trial stay before moving in.

My usual role is marketing manager, but now I’m caring for our 145 residents 24/7. They range in age from mid-sixties to 106. I’m doing everything from replacing batteries to handing out knitting yarn and adult coloring books. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve met residents’ relatives at the curb outside since no visitors are allowed. Most recently, there was a daughter who made a home-cooked meal for her mom.

The residents are understandably scared and sad that they can’t see their loved ones. I try to take their mind off the threat of COVID-19 by being there for them.

Meanwhile, my family’s made the sacrifice of not having me around, and I’m proud of them. But it’s really painful sometimes. I drove up to Yonkers one day and stayed six feet away from them. The only one I could touch was my dog, Harley. It was tough, especially for my son, who kept tearing up.

But I’m determined to see this through because my residents need me more than my family right now.

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