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A caregiver cares so much she makes her workplace home

Natasha Souza 'sets up shop' where she works to keep her residents and co-workers safe

SCARBOROUGH, Maine — Natasha Souza sees family as a many-layered community. She is a nurse, a wife, and the mother of a son and daughters. Her family lives with her twin sister, and that sister’s family. Her work family is the community at Scarborough Terrace, a senior living residence in Scarborough. Recently something really unusual happened  - her work place became home.  

Scarborough Terrace, home to about 54 seniors, has so far avoided having any cases of Covid. Natasha Souza has worked here for nearly a decade and is a Certified Residential Medication Aid (CRMA) and a Personal Support Specialist leader in the Memory Care unit.

Part of what has kept this community safe is having strict protocols in place. Natasha’s twin sister is also a caregiver in another nearby senior community. When Natasha got the news that Covid numbers were rising at the facility where her sister work -- that prompted her to take action.

"I just told ‘em I gotta pack my things, I gotta make sure my residents and my co-workers and everybody here is safe. And so, I packed my things and…I’ve been staying at Scarborough Terrace since the beginning of December. It’s been a long time," she says. 

Tara Bucknell is Scarborough Terrace’s Director of Nursing. She’s been a nurse for two decades. "Such a selfless act. Natasha just very much feels like 'I’m a caregiver, this is what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to be protecting my team, protecting my residents, protecting my family' ... just being safe, but it really goes above and beyond anything I’ve ever seen. I’ve worked with some great, great people, some fabulous caregivers but I’ve never seen anything like this," remarks Tara. "She came in to the wellness office, you could see tears kind of coming in to her eyes, and that was it. We talked a little bit about her staying here, and opened the room, she went home and got some stuff, and back here she was. And she’s been here ever since."

That was in early December – meaning, Natasha spent Christmas  - and her daughter’s January birthday - living at Scarborough Terrace and seeing her family remotely. During that time her sister got Covid and quarantined at their home. "I think I’m on like day 46 with no days off,  I’ve been keeping my mind busy, I have to work. To keep my mind off from going home to my family," says Natasha. "The second those numbers were going up at her facility I knew that Covid 19 can spread super fast especially in such a small environment. My sister lost many residents.  At least 12 to 15 residents at her facility? And that is about my entire unit in the dementia unit. So, I am so thankful that I have a very supportive family to be able to stay here for the four weeks while my sister recovered.

One of Natasha’s residents in her unit is Sally Boardman. Sally’s husband Dick used to visit every day. That all had to stop when the pandemic set in. Tara Bucknell puts it this way. "Natasha has been with her every step of the way. The relationship that she has with Dick and Sally both is just…it’s amazing to watch. Sally at this time is non-verbal, and when she sees Natasha, and this is probably gonna make me tear up , you can see her face light up. You can see emotion that you don’t often see in her face."

Dick Boardman is Sally's husband. "I used to come down, meeting Sally for lunch and dinner twice a day, every day, and when this coronavirus hit, we couldn’t come in and everything, so I had to stay away. For that age group, where they’re  in that memory care unit, it is so important to see the same person every day. That is what is so incredible. My heart goes out to her. I don’t have to worry about her health or how she’s being taken care of. Because Natasha’s there all the time, she’s awesome."

After we spoke the first time, Natasha felt it was safe to go home, and had spent her first weekend back with her family. "It was great. What a wonderful feeling, you know my son’s been attached to my hip since I’ve been home and my daughter she gave me a big hug when I got home on Friday night and never let go. It was a wonderful feeling. I feel like I was on top of the world!"

Natasha says she is so grateful and proud of how her family supported her through this – her kids and here very understanding husband…and that she would sacrifice more days it if meant keeping the residents safe. Thanks to the help of Bedard’s Pharmacy, Scarborough Terrace was thrilled to have gotten their vaccines on Thursday of last week – they said it felt like Christmas all over again.


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