Stoneham, Mass. – Dozens of residents and staff members attended a recent memorial ceremony at Bear Hill Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Stoneham to honor the 53 residents who succumbed to COVID-19 during the pandemic.
The ceremony, which coincided with National Skilled Nursing Care Week, also paid tribute to the courage and resilience of staff members for their steadfast commitment to the highest level of care. The team served an essential role as honorary family members and friends during times of limited visitation and social distancing.
Rose Shea, a community liaison at Tufts Medicine Care at Home, described the ceremony as “incredibly moving.” Emily Higgins, a music therapist at Tufts Medicine Care at Home, played the guitar and Susan Toleos, manager of hospice bereavement services and community education/outreach, read a poem and shared additional remarks about grief. Others read aloud each name and rang a bell for those who passed away. A flower was then placed in one of three vases, each representing a residential unit at Bear Hill.
Shea said many attendees told her they felt further comforted by the presence of Toby, her volunteer therapy dog who had returned to Bear Hill for the first time in more than two years.
“We all needed this time to reflect, reminisce and acknowledge our collective loss while recognizing our individual grief journey,” said Shea, noting that six residents who attended the ceremony survived the virus that claimed the lives of their longtime roommates. In fact, one woman wore rosary beads which had belonged to her friend with whom she had lived for more than 20 years.
“We gathered to remember our friends and honor their lives,” Shea said, “but also celebrate those who are still with us as we move forward together in this new time.”
Lois Coppola, a chaplain at Tufts Medicine Care at Home, said it was meaningful for home health aides, CNAs, social workers and other staff members to participate in the ceremony, including bringing up a flower to build the bouquets as each name was recited.
“It is important to come together as a community and acknowledge our grief, which is a measurement of our love,” Coppola said. “We shouldn’t live in the struggle of grief. Rather, we join together to remember and honor the past, which then allows us to take the next step with that burden somewhat relieved.”
About Tufts Medicine Care at Home
Tufts Medicine Care at Home, which includes providers Merrimack Valley Hospice, Home Health VNA, Home Health VNA of New Hampshire, Commonwealth Nursing Services and York Hospital Hospice as part of the Tufts Medicine health system, provides essential home health, palliative and hospice care in all the places patients call home. Together, these agencies are leading the development of a new era of innovation, with a relentless focus on transforming home-based care. For more information, visit HomeHealthFoundation.org.