The story of Randy and Gatling House serves as an example of how Vermont’s professional caregivers are going above and beyond the call of duty as the pandemic slogs on.  

It’s a caregiver’s worst nightmare. Locked down in a group home for people with developmental disabilities, Tina Fede and her team at the Gatling House in Bennington dutifully followed all the pandemic guidelines and tried their level best to keep the virus at bay. Nevertheless, Covid-19 came knocking. The virus quickly infected all four residents of the home, and nine out of the ten staff, including Fede. 

One of the residents is Randy, a 72-year-old man with “a gentle soul” who was blind, noverbal and had a severe intellectual disability. Randy has lived at Gatling House for a decade. It is the only home he knows. The staff are his family. They care what happens to him.

“At this point in his life, his real family was Gatling House,” said Pat Mignone, his sister. “They were there every day for him.”

SEVEN DAYS

With Staff Decimated and Suffering Symptoms Herself, Care Home Staffer Stands by Residents

Despite the staff’s best efforts, Randy got sick with Covid. He was placed in hospice and not expected to live long. Even though she was herself suffering symptoms of Covid, Hede and other staff refused to abandon their posts at the home. Or Randy.

The house was in crisis. Some caregivers from sister programs were recruited to help, but Fede and three other employees weren’t willing to turn over their residents’ care to strangers in their moment of need. Especially Randy’s. His journey into death, Fede insisted, must be “as dignified as possible.” 

So they worked. 

SEVEN DAYS

The heartwarming (and heartbreaking story) was published recently in Vermont’s weekly newspaper 7Days. Read the story here.

United Counseling Services, the state-designated agency in Bennington County, operates Gatling House.

Find Resources to Alleviate Record-High Caregiver Stress and Burnout During Covid 

For caregivers like Tina Fede, the Covid-19 pandemic has compounded an already stressful role. High rates of healthcare worker burnout – already a significant problem pre-Covid – have set off alarm bells among mental-health experts. A year into the pandemic, compassion fatigue is widespread. Medical journals warn of a “parallel pandemic” of clinician burnout. 

A number of professional organizations have compiled resources to help fight clinician and caregiver burnout. The resources linked below are geared to clinicians and care providers.

In addition, COVID Support VT presents  weekly wellness workshops. Customizable workshops are also available on request, on topics such as compassion fatigue, grief and loss, supporting staff, and others. Find our Workshop Request Form here.

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Need to talk? 

Call 2-1-1 (option #2) or 866-652-4636 (option #2) for free, confidential, one-on-one counseling. Our Support Counselors are available Monday – Friday. 

In crisis? 

If you or someone you care for is experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you can: call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-825;  text VT to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor 24/7; connect with your local community mental health agency for 24/7 support 

Find Help

Find resources and tools for coping with stress at www.COVIDSupportVT.org. Follow COVID Support VT on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. And, to stay up-to-date, sign up for our newsletter and blog.

Learn about upcoming Wellness Workshops from COVID Support VT, and Town Halls we’re hosting in partnership with community organizations.

One-click translation to 100 languages of everything on the COVIDSupportVT.org website, plus Multilingual Resources & downloadable materials in 10 languages common to Vermont’s New American immigrant and refugee communities. 

COVID Support VT is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency, managed by Vermont’s Departments of Emergency Management and Mental Health, and administered by Vermont Care Partners, a statewide network of 16 non-profit community-based agencies providing mental health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disability services and supports. 

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