Keisha Gourdet has worked as a certified caregiver for Royal Care, a home care agency, for six years. “Not everyone can do this,” she said. “A lot of people have quit and resigned since the virus started.”
But as the pandemic threatens the city with a second wave and the mayor is advising at-risk New Yorkers to limit activities outside the home, Ms. Gourdet remains committed. “My patients need my help. I would feel I’m neglecting them if I didn’t show up.”
Ms. Gourdet, 44, lives in Mill Basin, Brooklyn, on the top floor of a two-family house with her husband, Handal, 45, an M.T.A. bus operator, and two of their three children; Precious, 17, and Simara, 16. Her son, Kadeem, 20, is in the Navy in California. Ms. Gourdet’s work routine is especially grueling on Sundays.
HEALTH FIRST I have a rough start; I’m up at 4 a.m. I shower, dress and make sure to have a healthy breakfast of oatmeal, fruit, orange juice and daily supplements. I want a strong immune system. I leave the house wearing two masks and gloves, with a P.P.E. suit, extra gloves, shield mask and can of Lysol in my bag.
COMMUTE I catch the 5:45 bus and take that to my patient’s home. The bus makes me nervous because it’s so dirty. I spray myself and the seat because it’s really important I don’t pick up anything.
NO HUGS My patient lives in Brooklyn, and I’m there by 6:30. I put on new gloves, spray myself and get into my uniform before walking in. I’ve been coming here several days a week for three years. He’s really nice with a good sense of humor. He’s 53 and a diabetic. Five years ago he fell, and a car hit him. It gave him balance issues, and now he walks with a cane. He’s one of three patients I take care of. I used to hug him hello, which I can’t do anymore because that’s dangerous. We both feel badly, like something has been taken away.
MORNING TASKS At 7 I set up his breakfast, then get him ready for his shower. I help him brush his teeth, get dressed and ready for the day. Then he has cereal, eggs, bread and fruit. At 7:45 he watches the news. He’s in the bedroom and I’m by the dining room so that we’re social distancing. At 8:30 we take a short 15-minute walk so he can get some air and exercise.
COOK, CLEAN For the next few hours I cook for him; vegetables, rice, peas and beans. I do his grocery shopping on Saturday. Everything is only a block away so that’s good. Then I clean the whole apartment. I don’t want him to get sick so I make sure everything is sanitized. Everything right now feels really stressed.
A GOOD PLACE Over the years he has become like family. In the beginning it was rocky. He didn’t want anyone telling him what to do. Now we’re at a good place. Since we can’t touch, we high-five with gloved hands. Then I say, ‘Don’t be a stranger; if anything happens call me.’ I don’t want him to feel left alone because I know he gets depressed when I leave.
SHOWER AND SANDWICH 11 a.m. is the end of my shift. In the hallway I spray myself, get out of the uniform and put it in a plastic bag. I throw out the masks and gloves and put on a new set. I get back on the bus and spray everything. I race home; I only have 45 minutes, so I take off my clothing by the front door, run upstairs, shower using Dettol, an antibacterial liquid soap, and get dressed. My husband has already left for work. My daughters are home. I say a quick hello and tell them I love them. I eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and drink a glass of milk and then I leave.
IN TRANSIT, AGAIN At 12:30 I catch another bus, which I take to Church Street. Then it’s two subways to my next job, which is at a nursing home in Queens. I look for empty cars and get in the one with the least people. There’s so much back and forth. I don’t have a rest period, it’s overwhelming.
THE AFTERNOON GIG I’m at the Midway Nursing Home by 2:20ish. Everything is sanitized again. I take my temperature to make sure I don’t have a fever. I sign in and am given new masks, gloves and protective gear. There are seven floors. One is for those who have the virus. One is for people getting over it. The others are for rehab, long-term stays or my floor, which is for the elderly who have dementia.
MULTIPLE PATIENTS I have 10 patients, and I say hi to each one. Some are happy to see me; some are in bad moods. For the next several hours I run around attending to everyone. I do check-ins, find out who needs a shower, who is getting what for dinner and make sure everyone gets dressed for bed. The staff on my floor are really nice. Everyone is there to help. It’s the only way to function well.
BEDTIME At 9 everyone gets a snack: Jell-O, banana, yogurt or ice cream. Bedtime is at 9:30. After I put everyone to bed, I do computer work for the next 90 minutes and log in who got a shower and who ate what.
EXHAUSTED At 11 I clock out, take off my P.P.E. suit and face shield. I throw out the gloves and mask and put new ones on and walk to the train. Only a few are running, so it can be a 20-minute wait, which is horrible because I’m so tired. It’s one of the worst parts because I just want to go home and see my husband. I wait for the second train, then the bus. Everything is sprayed. I’m exhausted.
TEA I get home at 1:15 a.m. and shower again. I have a hot cup of lemon zinger tea and go to bed. My husband is already asleep. It’s hard not to see him. We’ve both picked up extra shifts since the virus started. It’s been very tough, but we’re going to get through this.