Michigan Veteran Homes: A place they call home

Photo By Lt. Col. Kathryn Prater | The Michigan Veteran Homes (MVH), a branch of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs provides, long-term care and services to enhance the well-being of the residents who live there. COVID-19 has presented challenges for the skilled-nursing facilities operated by MVH in Grand Rapids and Marquette, Mich. Staff at the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans in Marquette, MIch., work additional hours and closely monitor residents for potential symptoms while ensuring members have on-unit activities and ability to video-chat with loved ones.
April 11, 2020

The Michigan Veteran Homes (MVH), a branch of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs provides, long-term care and services to enhance the well-being of the residents who live there.

“Plain and simple, it is our job to make sure that the veterans and their families, who call our facilities their home, are safe and protected,” said Anne Zerbe, Executive Director, Michigan Veteran Homes.

COVID-19 has presented unique challenges and changes to the way people around the globe function each day. This is especially true for skilled-nursing facilities like those operated by MVH in Grand Rapids and Marquette.

Combined, both homes care for nearly 400 residents, all of whom are veterans or a spouse of a veteran. Many of the residents are at an increased risk of being impacted by COVID-19 exposure and therefore increased safeguards have been put into place to protect them.

Currently, the facilities are closed to all outside visitors. The only exception is for those visiting residents in palliative (end of life) care. Meanwhile, only medically necessary staff are allowed into the building and only after successfully clearing a screening process that involves answering a series of health and travel questions and checking they do not have a fever.

Inside the homes, the residents are asked to remain in their rooms. All communal dining and activities have been cancelled. The staff are working to ensure the members have in room and on-unit activities as well as visits with loved ones using video meeting services or chat apps such as Face Time or Hangouts. The homes have also started accommodating “window visits” when requested.

“This is an incredibly difficult time for our residents as their daily routines have been changed and some struggle to understand why,” said Zerbe. “This is where our amazing staff comes in and they’re working way above and beyond the call of duty to gently help our residents understand what’s going on.”

Both homes provide critical care and services every day. The responsibilities of the staff have increased due to COVID-19.

“They have adjusted their schedules and individuals have stepped up to ensure that the residents are getting as much life enrichment as possible,” said Zerbe. “They deserve immense recognition and the very highest of praise.”

At the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, a staff member from the business office has delayed her retirement plans and adjusted her work schedule to ensure that residents are able to get out of their rooms and take one-on-one walks, around the campus.

“We have nursing staff who are providing calming and comforting care in an effort to ensure residents are not overly stressed during this difficult time,” said Zerbe. “Our dietary staff modified menus to make sure members had a fish fry on Friday during the season of Lent. All these efforts show the deep care and compassion of the staff.”

In Marquette, at the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans, the individual in charge of staff scheduling has been called to work additional hours to ensure the necessary staff is in place to support the needs of the residents there. Meanwhile, the nursing staff is closely monitoring residents for any potential symptoms or signs of illness – a task especially critical during this time.

“The willingness and flexibility of all staff to step forward and assist in any way is truly a testament to the amazing professionals we have at both homes, said Zerbe.

Both homes have a very strong volunteer and philanthropic support network in the Grand Rapids and Marquette communities. Donors have stepped up to make sure residents have activity supplies, snacks, and other items of need during this time.

“Community support has been amazing,” said Zerbe. “For example, Kent Intermediate School District donated critical PPE items to the Grand Rapids Home and Northern Michigan University, in Marquette, followed suit. The support and outreach by the community and entire state has been truly inspiring!”