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Separated by the pandemic part 2: From the caregiver’s side

Lefebvre chats with her son, Landon, on a sunny afternoon as they spend time in a small part beside her apartment building. (Photo by Nathan Tsukroff, PortraitEFX)

The following story is the second of many interviews being done by Nathan Tsukroff of PortraitEFX to capture the effects of this pandemic on the people of Maine. 

Jamie Lefebvre of Lewiston, an aide at Beacon Hospice Care on Beacon Drive in Augusta, has not been able to touch her 11-year-old son for about two months, due to the Covid-19 crisis. And he has been staying overnight at the house where his father, Chris Nagy, lives, although the divorced couple shares joint custody.

The closest she has been able to get was several weeks ago when she donned trashbags and her mask to hug him for a few minutes. 

Landon stayed overnight, socially separated, this past Mother’s Day at Lefebvre’s apartment on Beacon Street, then returned to overnights with his father.

“Pretty much, after work, I typically go to his father’s (house), they live in the neighborhood, and we just walk,” Lefebvre said. Her father helps with homeschooling for Landon, and she helps with homework as he needs. 

They recently worked on a project for his school science fair. He had to “take an invention that you can buy, and then upgrade it,” she said. Landon took rubber gloves and added different pads to wash dishes and keep them germ free from Covid-19. “It was really good!” she said.

Landon presented his project remotely. Part of the assignment was to make the presentation as a famous person, so he chose Gordon Ramsey, and “had a lot of fun” with the presentation.

Lefebvre has continued working full time during the Covid-19 crisis. As an aide, she helps patients with showers and other personal care like hair and nails.

“Right now, they haven’t seen their family in pretty much two months. And so, I am pretty much that person for them,” she said. She helps patients with walks outdoors and helps them to send cards home to their families.

“It’s been really emotionally hard, working,” Lefebvre said. “My job is different” with the Covid-19 restrictions, she said, adding that she feels that as a hospice aide now, she is trying to get them to hang on until the doors open to families again.

For the hospice patients, when they are in their final 24 hours, only two family members are allowed to visit the patient, while the other family members “have to Zoom,” while their loved one is dying, she explained.

Lefebvre said she has great respect for the other hospice workers and has been following social-distancing guidelines to ensure she does not bring Covid-19 into the facility where she works. Workers are screened daily as they enter the building to care for patients.

There are patients on hospice who “are potential people who could graduate” from hospice care, Lefebvre said. A patient may decline and be provided with hospice care, then get better and no longer need that care. She said she is very aware of the need to avoid infecting any of the patients, especially for this reason. 

Lefebvre said of the patients, “We give them quality, not necessarily quantity. We want their days left to be happy.”

Lefebvre has been a healthcare aide for 10 years, and said she finds her work very fulfilling. “I think they give me more than I give them, honestly. I think they have taught me great things to carry out through life.”

Being socially distanced during the Covid-19 crisis has changed her view of everyday life. “I’ve always appreciated things, small things, but now I’ll never take for granted a hug from family, my friends, and number one, my son!” she said. 

“I think it’s very true that we take things for granted, and I hope that for some, it opens our eyes to how simple we could live life.” Kids are playing outside all the time now, she said, which is “a very positive situation.”

“I can’t wait for things to be back a little bit more normal, for me to actually kiss my son and hug my son,” she said. “He’s a very loving kid, so it’s been truly heartbreaking” not being able to touch him.

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