FRANKLIN, Ind. — In three waves over the last three weeks, Indiana National Guard soldiers received training and were assigned to assist long-term care facilities throughout the state. The final wave started working in nursing homes Monday. Each facility receives between 1-3 soldiers.
"Our guardsmen are reacting very well,” said Brig. Gen. Dale Lyles, Indiana National Guard Adjutant General. “As a matter of fact, it's been a very unique experience for them and a very broadening assignment for them, and they are enjoying what they are doing because they feel like they're making a difference."
The Indiana National Guard is now deployed to every long-term care facility in the state, 534 in total. Soldiers will serve in nursing homes through the end of the year. Most are assigned to facilities within 50 miles of their home.
Two guardsmen started working Monday at Otterbein SeniorLife in Franklin. The facility has about 450 residents. Sixty residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 18 have died. Currently no residents are positive, but four staff members are out with COVID symptoms. So, the assistance from Sgt. Justin Rector and Specialist Josue Reyes is welcomed.
"We definitely embrace it and we're appreciative,” said Rob Newcomer, executive director of Otterbein Franklin SeniorLife. “They are two fine young men. They're very respectful, very polite and actually they're almost like one of our employees now."
The soldiers monitor the front doors at Otterbein and screen everyone coming into the facility for COVID symptoms. Soldiers do not provide care for residents but handle other duties to allow staff to focus on care. Other facilities are using soldiers to take PPE inventory, sanitize entrances and common areas, and monitor outside visits for social distancing.
"With the guardsmen and the time that they're putting in, that's essentially 16 hours that I can redeploy that employee and have them do something else that benefits the residents,” Newcomer said.
More than 1,300 soldiers are now serving in nursing homes throughout Indiana.