CLEVELAND — My grandma, Elise Cassidy, spent her life surrounded by her four kids and nine grandkids. She loved to plan Sunday dinners, holidays and get together on random summer afternoons.
She was a tough cookie who resisted moving into assisted living until she was 94. And once she did enter a facility, I made sure to visit every chance I could, worried she would be lonely. I would bring my girls, her great grandbabies, to the Eliza Jennings Renaissance, to hold and watch grow.
But just before her 104th birthday, the pandemic shut us out. No visitors -- not even my uncle who lived in the same building.
Our family worried endlessly about her mental decline and health. But we quickly realized that we had a group of angels on the inside -- the housekeeping staff and aides who ended up helping my family more than they know.
Kim Greer, a member of the housekeeping staff, set up the home's first window visit so we could see my grandma on her birthday in April of 2020.
She would show my grandma photos and videos of my kids.
Both Kim and Loretta on the housekeeping team would sit with her, listening to her stories and spending quality time. Rose Nails took all the emotional phone calls from our family, setting up Skype calls and eventually visits. We had her on speed dial!
I recently had the opportunity to visit Eliza Jennings with my mom to thank these three women (and the entire staff) for going above and beyond for my family last year. In fact, in honor of the Olympics, we wanted to honor their "gold medal" work in helping to make this last year a little better and brighter. So we presented them with engraved gold picture frames from Things Remembered, and some special gold medal cookies from Cookies By D.
"It was just a blessing to be with her, you know, and hold her hand and let her know she is not alone and she is loved," Loretta told us.
And in my grandma's final days, when we could finally visit, these women sat with us, making sure we were OK as my grandma's health slowly declined.
My grandma passed on May 9 at 105. We will forever be grateful for these amazing women, who we know helped comfort more families than just ours during the pandemic. Loretta told us their job is more rewarding than we know.
"It was sadness, but it was a blessing," she said. "Because I knew we could go in there every day and make a difference in our residents' lives. All of them needed that extra love and attention, a little hug here and there, a little special talking to. But I got more out of it than anybody could ever imagine because that time in everybody's lives everybody was so isolated. But to be there for them and comfort them was the main goal. When family can't be there, they have us."