As we approach one year since COVID-19 arrived in Rhode Island, 12 News is bringing you special reports all this week at 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. They’re stories of heartache, heroes and hope.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — One of the highest honors for nursing home staffers is to care for those who once cared for us.
Over the past year, thousands of these men and women embraced that mindset and went far beyond their normal scope of duty to make sure residents were cared for and safe, from working prolonged hours to stepping into a variety of roles.
“I helped out with the kitchen staff, developing a new way to serve our meals,” Alicia Hicks said.
“I came in and worked every single weekend. I learned how to do laundry. I can fold a sheet much better than I ever did,” she added with a laugh.
Hicks, normally the activities director at Village House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Newport, says she worked every day for two straight months.
Rebecca Venticinque has been a registered nurse for 20 years and when Scalabrini Villa in North Kingstown needed someone to run its COVID-19 unit, she jumped at the chance. One of her responsibilities was providing updates every day to families separated from their loved ones.
“Now, since this horrible pandemic, we are their family in here, because we see them every day,” she said.
Hicks and Venticinque take pride in caring for their elderly residents like their own loved ones, and while the past year was the most challenging of their careers, both said they wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again.
“It’s something I will remember for the rest of my life,” Venticinque said.
Both women were recently honored as pandemic heroes, receiving an award from an anonymous donor for their dedication and compassion over the past year.
With the residents and staff at long-term care facilities getting vaccinated and life starting to move toward a more normal setting, Hicks said she can’t wait to make a full return to her true passion as activities director.
“Music, food and bingo – that’s their big thing!” she exclaimed.
“It’s going to feel absolutely wonderful,” she continued. “I am going to be very, very happy to be able to do all that again for them. We’re hoping when that day does come we have a huge celebration here and invite family members, have entertainers here, and just … it will be probably one of the happiest days of my life.”