Stacey Barnett’s Hero Highlight

September 2020

Taking Care Takes Flight

You hear about the heroes all the time now.  Those essential workers on the front lines, who bravely go to work and sacrifice themselves for the wellbeing of others.  

We thought you might want to know more about a superhero who is working through the COVID crisis at the Jewish Association on Aging.

The following is Stacey Barnett’s hero highlight.

Stacey has been a certified nursing assistant at JAA’s Charles Morris Nursing & Rehabilitation Center since 2014.

She admits she chose this profession because she likes helping people who need help.

“I have patience, I care, and I am passionate about my work,” Stacey says proudly.

It shows. 

After starting at JAA in a long-term nursing wing, Stacey now works exclusively with dementia and Alzheimer’s residents.  Every day she cares for an average of seven to eight residents at varying stages of memory loss, assisting them with their daily activities, keeping them clean and well-groomed, helping them eat, bath, stay mobile, and engaged. 

She likes the pace and adjusts to her residents who may show different behaviors at any given moment. 

“I have learned how to talk through things with my residents,” says Stacey, adding, “You have to have patience. Especially now because we are not just their aides, we are their families. They depend on us.”  

Stacey knows firsthand how much families on the outside need people like her on the inside when visits to loved ones are restricted for six months of a pandemic. Her own mother, a patient at a nearby nursing home, requires assistance. These two are not able to see each other except through window visits.

Then her mother was diagnosed COVID positive and was quarantined for 14 days. 

“The hardest part was not knowing what was happening,” Stacey admits.  After the diagnosis, “it took several days before her nurses got in touch with me.  By then I was asking my colleagues at JAA what I should do.”

Fellow employees gave her great advice. She took control, using resources she never thought she’d need.

Sharyn Rubin, Director of Resident and Community Services at JAA was one of those to whom Stacey turned.

“I really felt for Stacey.  With everything she was going through at work, everything she does here for her residents, she was still dealing with her own issues when she walked out the door,” says Sharyn.

Stacey expected more respect and communication between herself and her mother’s nursing home. “At JAA our families call us, we call and talk with them and tell them what is going on.  I was kind of jealous because I wanted that too.”

By taking matters into her own hands, Stacey feels she is getting a more prompt response and better information now.  She is also happy that her mother is completely COVID-free. She says she has empathy for her mother’s caregivers because she understands the challenges of the job.

“I love my residents and that’s what I want for my mom. I want her to be treated like she is relevant.”

When Charles Morris was fighting its own battles with COVID infections, Stacey could relate to the fear that employees, families and residents were feeling.  She was frightened too.

“I learned that, while there was more commotion and we were taking more precautions, once I stepped on my unit, it was the same.  Professionalism just kicks in. You do your job. We worked together and got it done.”

Stacey doesn’t feel like a superhero. She says her natural ability takes over when faced with challenges like COVID.   “The hero comes out because you know how to handle situations. I wouldn’t really call it ‘hero.’ What I do is nothing different from how I normally work. I have always treated people extra special.”

Stacey’s 11-year-old son Dey’mere is learning from his mother just as she did from hers.

His reaction to her being in the middle of the COVID crisis? “He is not shut out of anything and knows exactly what is going on.”

Compassion and empathy run deep in Stacey’s bloodline. They are some of the qualities that are shaping her outlook on life.

They also show us just how superheroes take flight.