Jared Treece | @bisalo
At the start of the pandemic, retirement home safety became a top priority in the U.S. as those most vulnerable to COVID-19 were together in a relatively small space, but after a year a new concern arose: mental health.
As these facilities took measures to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, doors were shut and loved ones were forced to keep distance. Isolation became the new disease.
Last May, the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) launched a campaign to fight this new plight, Operation Rising Spirit.
“Every day, staff at the homes enter the frontlines to safeguard our veterans’ safety and wellbeing,” IDVA said in a statement.
Operation Rising Spirit is a movement asking for voluntary support of Illinois’s four public Veterans’ Homes in Anna, LaSalle, Manteno and Quincy.
“Uplifting messages and displays of support from the community will help boost the morale of veterans and staff during this unprecedented time,” Linda Chapa LaVia, IDVA director, said.
Calls, letters, emails and signs outside the homes are encouraged to lift the spirits of residents.
Taking part in these efforts is the Veterans Assistance Commission in Macon County, Ill. “operated by and for veterans,” as stated on their official website.
“The main thing I do is try to raise money and send a check to the veterans home,” William Hanes, chairman of Veterans Assistance Commission in Macon County, said.
The home in Anna also has a wishlist showing what donations like these go toward: newspaper subscriptions, out to eat funds, bird sanctuary maintenance and a Christmas fund. All of these help to make the lives of the veterans more comfortable.
“A month ago we were all very optimistic, we thought we were going to put COVID behind us and now we hear about these variant strains […] it’s all up in the air,” Hanes said.
Rapid vaccination efforts are starting to ease worries, and on April 9, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill) announced the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs would appropriate $2.9 million from the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.
“It is critical that our state-run veterans’ homes provide the highest quality of care to their residents, that’s why we fought to include these investments in our federal relief efforts,” Durbin said.
There have been seven residents and eighteen employees of the veterans’ home in Anna who have contracted the virus, all of whom have recovered according to the most recent IDVA report.
Among Illinois’s three other veteran’s homes in LaSalle, Manteno and Quincy, 83 residents have been reported to have passed away as a result of COVID-19.
See more: (Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs COVID-19 updates)
Staff reporter George Wiebe can be reached at [email protected]
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