Jamaica Plain Geriatrician Describes Work in Face of COVID-19

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As a geriatrician of long-term care patients Jamaica Plain resident Julia Siegel Breton is facing the threat of COVID-19 everyday.

Dr. Julia Siegel Breton

Breton works at the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Roslindale, and quickly transitioned from part-time (70%) to more than full-time work, as she also offered to cover weekends.

She said there have been two major changes since COVID-19, and both have "heightened the awareness of how crucial these aspects have always been in the care of our frail elders, but now with a greater sense of urgency."

Breton has seen the need for companionship and meaningful moments.

"It has been a necessary, but heartbreaking measure to not allow families or volunteers to visit," said Breton. "Everyone here is going above and beyond to provide compassionate care — I am filled with hope as I witness incredible acts of kindness each day from staff."

There is also a need to provide counseling and discussion of goals of care to provide relief of suffering at the end of life, be it physical, emotional, or spiritual suffering.

"I volunteered to take care of COVID-19 positive patients well over a month ago when HSL started to prepare for the possibility of cases in our facility and I do not regret it," said Breton. "More than ever, I talk with patients and families about goals of care and prognosis due to COVID-19. Families trust us with their loved ones, and it is an honor to serve them."

Outside of work, Breton is trying to fit in a trail run in Jamaica Plain every day to replenish her spirit. Her neighbors have also been providing her home-cooked meals, leave chalk messages on the sidewalk, have lent her a car, given her granola bars/toilet paper/bananas to nurses and personal care assistants.

Dr. Julia Siegel Breton with her husband and two young children.

Possibly the hardest and heartbreaking thing has been being apart from her husband and two children, only 3 and 5. But she feels it was the right thing to do.

"They are safe and happy with my parents and brother helping out with childcare in Virginia," said Breton. "It’s been challenging to navigate a virtual relationship with my children as they are too young to spend more than one minute on FaceTime — and I really miss the snuggles!"