fb-pixel

Life inside senior care homes, after the coronavirus crucible

Sister Jeanne Arsenault returned to her room after breakfast at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence, a home for Catholic nuns in Marlborough. Arsenault fell ill to COVID-19 during the outbreak. She said she was surprised when the testing started. "All these men dressed up in spacesuits. I wanted to ask if E.T. was here. I didn't think it was the end. I would have liked to go to heaven but God said, 'not yet.' It's on God's time."
Sister Jeanne Arsenault returned to her room after breakfast at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence, a home for Catholic nuns in Marlborough. Arsenault fell ill to COVID-19 during the outbreak. She said she was surprised when the testing started. "All these men dressed up in spacesuits. I wanted to ask if E.T. was here. I didn't think it was the end. I would have liked to go to heaven but God said, 'not yet.' It's on God's time."Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

In the rooms, halls, and gathering spots of the Commonwealth’s senior care sites, the coronavirus took a particularly insidious hold in the spring and early summer. Rogerson House in Jamaica Plain had the state’s first known senior care fatality. At St. Chretienne Retirement Residence in Marlborough, 22 of 31 nuns contracted the coronavirus. Sickness spread and the residents were isolated from friends and family. Since those dark days, staff members have adjusted even the most basic of routines. Today, the way of life for residents has been transformed.


 Sisters Gloria Cote, 92, (left) and Jeanne Fregeau, 93, shared a laugh on the porch at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence. Both fell ill to COVID-19 during the April outbreak. Cote said, "I wasn't as sick as she was."  Fregeau said, " When I realized what it was I was afraid to die. Then I thought, 'the Lord will come and get me.' I worried about what would happen to Gloria. But I guess it wasn't time because he didn't come get me.''
Sisters Gloria Cote, 92, (left) and Jeanne Fregeau, 93, shared a laugh on the porch at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence. Both fell ill to COVID-19 during the April outbreak. Cote said, "I wasn't as sick as she was." Fregeau said, " When I realized what it was I was afraid to die. Then I thought, 'the Lord will come and get me.' I worried about what would happen to Gloria. But I guess it wasn't time because he didn't come get me.''Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff


Sisters Fregeau (left) and Cote have been friends for 72 years.
Sisters Fregeau (left) and Cote have been friends for 72 years. Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff


Sister Jeanne D'arc Poirier prepared for lunch at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence.
Sister Jeanne D'arc Poirier prepared for lunch at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff


Resident George Brackett, 77, had his temperature checked by Stephanie Dupervil, a licensed practical nurse, in his room at Rogerson House in Jamaica Plain. Residents now have their temperature checked twice a day.
Resident George Brackett, 77, had his temperature checked by Stephanie Dupervil, a licensed practical nurse, in his room at Rogerson House in Jamaica Plain. Residents now have their temperature checked twice a day. Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff


Sister Bernadetta Haviland wrote a thank you note in her room at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence. Haviland said she was one of the few residents who did not fall ill during the outbreak. "Thanks be to God. We've just been following the rules, we wash our hands, we stay apart and we wear masks," she said. The residents who were not infected pitched in to help the staff serve meals, wash sheets, and collect trash during the height of the crisis.
Sister Bernadetta Haviland wrote a thank you note in her room at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence. Haviland said she was one of the few residents who did not fall ill during the outbreak. "Thanks be to God. We've just been following the rules, we wash our hands, we stay apart and we wear masks," she said. The residents who were not infected pitched in to help the staff serve meals, wash sheets, and collect trash during the height of the crisis. Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff


Rogerson House resident David Myers was greeted by Polly Brennan, 81, while celebrating his 90th birthday at the facility.
Rogerson House resident David Myers was greeted by Polly Brennan, 81, while celebrating his 90th birthday at the facility.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff


Sisters Gloria Cote (left) and Claire Robert played Rummikub at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence. Cote fell ill to COVID-19 during the April outbreak. "It took all my energy; I was weak," she said.
Sisters Gloria Cote (left) and Claire Robert played Rummikub at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence. Cote fell ill to COVID-19 during the April outbreak. "It took all my energy; I was weak," she said. Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff


Sister Cecile Berthiaum prayed while watching Mass on television at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence. Since COVID-19 spread through the facility in April, the chapel has been closed.
Sister Cecile Berthiaum prayed while watching Mass on television at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence. Since COVID-19 spread through the facility in April, the chapel has been closed.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff


Sr. Louisa Perreault passed down the hall at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence. Perreault , 85, had a month long battle with COVID-19 during the outbreak. "I prayed a lot. I prayed for this world that's all upside down. And I did a lot of coloring, I kept myself busy."
Sr. Louisa Perreault passed down the hall at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence. Perreault , 85, had a month long battle with COVID-19 during the outbreak. "I prayed a lot. I prayed for this world that's all upside down. And I did a lot of coloring, I kept myself busy."Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff


Masks are now ubiquitous at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence, particularly during an exercise session in the cafeteria, where Sister Claire Robert stretched.
Masks are now ubiquitous at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence, particularly during an exercise session in the cafeteria, where Sister Claire Robert stretched.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff


Administrator Jackeline Bones chatted with Sister Jeanne Arsenault during lunch at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence. When COVID-19 spread through the facility Bones, who is also a nurse, packed a suitcase and moved in. She eventually became ill while caring for the residents and had to quarantine. She explained that she was strong when she was with the residents but when she was alone she worried, "how many am I going to lose?"
Administrator Jackeline Bones chatted with Sister Jeanne Arsenault during lunch at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence. When COVID-19 spread through the facility Bones, who is also a nurse, packed a suitcase and moved in. She eventually became ill while caring for the residents and had to quarantine. She explained that she was strong when she was with the residents but when she was alone she worried, "how many am I going to lose?" Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff


Fitness specialist, Mark Houston helped resident Bea Chorover, 89, sanitize her hands at Rogerson House. Houston said residents sanitize their hands every 30 minutes when they are outside their room.
Fitness specialist, Mark Houston helped resident Bea Chorover, 89, sanitize her hands at Rogerson House. Houston said residents sanitize their hands every 30 minutes when they are outside their room. Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff


Advertisement



Sister Jacqueline Ouellet decorated a calendar in her room at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence. When COVID-19 spread through the facility Ouellet said she tested positive once and negative once but never showed any symptoms. She said she handled the ordeal, "with great patience and prayer."
Sister Jacqueline Ouellet decorated a calendar in her room at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence. When COVID-19 spread through the facility Ouellet said she tested positive once and negative once but never showed any symptoms. She said she handled the ordeal, "with great patience and prayer." Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff


Music therapist Julie Hubert led residents in a song at Rogerson House.
Music therapist Julie Hubert led residents in a song at Rogerson House.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff
Sister Jeanne Fregeau, 93, waited for her morning medication in her room at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence.
Sister Jeanne Fregeau, 93, waited for her morning medication in her room at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence. Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff


Sisters Jeanne D'arc Poirier (left) and Claire Robert prayed the rosary while watching Mass in a community room at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence.
Sisters Jeanne D'arc Poirier (left) and Claire Robert prayed the rosary while watching Mass in a community room at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff


 Executive director Rebekah Levit comforted resident Polly Brennan, 81, at Rogerson House.
Executive director Rebekah Levit comforted resident Polly Brennan, 81, at Rogerson House.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff


Nurses aide Laurinda Santos offered juice to the residents during breakfast at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence. During the COVID-19 outbreak, Santos remembered working a stretch of 18 days in a row. "We cried, we laughed, we screamed," she said.
Nurses aide Laurinda Santos offered juice to the residents during breakfast at St. Chretienne Retirement Residence. During the COVID-19 outbreak, Santos remembered working a stretch of 18 days in a row. "We cried, we laughed, we screamed," she said. Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff


Resident Joan Micka, 74, looked through a book of photographs her family made for her at Rogerson House.. Micka said she was the Colleen of the Holyoke St. Patrick's day Parade, a high traditional honor, when she was 18.
Resident Joan Micka, 74, looked through a book of photographs her family made for her at Rogerson House.. Micka said she was the Colleen of the Holyoke St. Patrick's day Parade, a high traditional honor, when she was 18.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff


Resident Joan Micka, 74, rested in her room at Rogerson House.
Resident Joan Micka, 74, rested in her room at Rogerson House.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff


Private aid Joan Bunjo and resident Lillian Zane found a place in the shade at Rogerson House. It was Zane's 100th birthday and she was waiting for a family visit.
Private aid Joan Bunjo and resident Lillian Zane found a place in the shade at Rogerson House. It was Zane's 100th birthday and she was waiting for a family visit. Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff