Community rallies around Geneva nursing home hit hard by COVID-19

  • Jennifer Siegele, a Geneva resident, is organizing efforts to support the staff and residents of Bria of Geneva, a nursing home hit hard by the coronavirus crisis.

    Jennifer Siegele, a Geneva resident, is organizing efforts to support the staff and residents of Bria of Geneva, a nursing home hit hard by the coronavirus crisis. Courtesy of Jennifer Siegele

 
 
Updated 5/8/2020 4:40 PM

For the last few weeks, grief has overwhelmed the residents and employees of Bria of Geneva, one of the suburban nursing homes hit hardest by the coronavirus crisis.

A total of 114 COVID-19 cases -- 77 residents and 37 staff members -- have been reported at the long-term care facility since its first diagnosis April 17, Administrator Patti Long said. Though a majority of those infected have recovered or are improving, she said, 21 have died as of Friday, casting waves of sorrow over the building.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We've lost a lot of residents here who we consider family," Long said. "It's a challenging time. This is something I don't think anyone expected to go through."

The silver lining in an otherwise devastating storm has been the outpouring of support from families and community members, she said, some of whom have no connection to the facility at 1101 E. State St.

Among them is Jennifer Siegele, who has lived near BRIA of Geneva for 23 years and wanted "to show that we're thinking of them."

This week, she collected and donated three boxes of food, as well as a poster containing positive messages from about 20 community members. That same group is now planning to drop off flowers and cards to residents this weekend in honor of Mother's Day, she said, and they'll continue brainstorming new ideas in the weeks to come.

"They've been going through so much there," Siegele said. "I just wanted to make sure they knew that the town had their back."

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The community assistance doesn't end there. Residents' family members -- even of those who have died -- have dropped off water, Gatorade and meals for employees almost daily, Long said. Cheerful cards, posters and emails have been hung on the walls. An Elburn woman who read about the nursing home's woes offered to have baked goods delivered Saturday.

With no visitors allowed during the stay-at-home order, employees also have been helping residents connect with their loved ones over FaceTime or through "window visits."

In times of great sorrow, Long said, it's amazing how much a sweet gesture, even from a stranger, can brighten their days.

Of the residents who tested positive for COVID-19, 39 cases have been "resolved," 13 are still being monitored and a handful are in the hospital, Long said.

Sixteen of the 37 staff members who had the virus were asymptomatic, she added. Nineteen have been cleared to return to work.

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