How Senior Living Workers are Protecting Residents During COVID-19
When you run a senior living facility, residents are your top priority.
There’s nothing as important as keeping seniors safe and protected, especially from illness. With the outbreak of COVID-19, seniors have become even more vulnerable and high-risk. Fortunately, when clean conditions and specialized care are your highest focus, you’ve likely already taken many of the necessary basic precautions. Now, it’s time to take extra measures. Here’s what senior living workers in the Midwest are doing to protect residents during Coronavirus.
Ensuring the health and safety of senior residents is your top priority in this business. You probably think about the necessary precautions day and night.
The global pandemic of COVID-19 has shown us that no matter how safe and cautious we think we are, we can always step up our efforts. Seniors are the most vulnerable population to this terrible illness and it is more important than ever to focus on keeping them safe.
We’ve explored the best practices of facilities in the Midwest to learn what they’re doing to keep their residents healthy and protected. If you’re looking for additional ideas and advice, we urge you to check with the CDC and the World Health Organization for the latest updates. COVID-19 best practice guidance is continually changing as scientists and other officials learn more about targeting and treating this illness.
In the meantime, here’s what many senior living workers are doing to protect residents during COVID-19.
1. Limiting and Restricting Entry to Facilities to Essential Staff Only
In senior care, we have a responsibility to our residents and their families to keep them both safe and socially connected. Unfortunately, in the time of COVID-19, protecting senior citizens means limiting access to your facility, even for close family members and friends.
Most facilities are following the guidelines for limiting facility entry to only essential workers and caregivers.
- Department managers (this may include nursing, dining, lifestyle and activity coordinators, marketing, maintenance, housekeeping, and executive/management)
- Medical personnel, such as nurses, resident aides, and medication distributors
- Kitchen and dining workers
- Cleaning staff
- Some outside delivery services, such as postal workers and food delivery workers
Depending on the services offered at your facility and your target population, certain residents (such as those in assisted living or memory care units) may require additional specialized caregivers all or most of the day.
One of the most difficult precautions is restricting visits from residents’ family members, but right now, it’s necessary to keep residents safe from exposure to COVID-19. Facilities are making exceptions only in extreme cases, such as hospice or last rites. Other facilities make arrangements to transfer very ill patients to the hospital so that they can spend their final hours with loved ones.
2. Shifting Operations and Changing Social Visits
Most facilities are currently restricting visits from volunteers, friends, and even family members of residents. These restrictions are challenging, especially if you’re highly dependent on the efforts of volunteers and community members, but most facilities are realizing that it’s a necessary precaution.
This change in access has meant a shift in operations for most facilities. Community events with outside entertainment and visitors (musicians, artists, speakers, and students) have largely ceased. However, senior living workers are still finding creative ways to ensure their residents connect with the community. This creative approach may mean offering virtual presentations, encouraging community members to decorate sidewalks, write letters to residents and staff, or wave and visit from a safe distance through the window.
Even with residents within the facility, it’s best to restrict gatherings. When possible, serve meals within the residents’ rooms and encourage everyone to wear protective equipment when they move through common areas of the facility.
Lifestyle services like beauty salons, exercise programs, personal training, and other non-essential wellness activities should also be put on hold for now. Fortunately, so many senior living staff members are willing to fill the void by spending quality time with residents, offering a listening ear, and helping find ways to bridge this temporary gap.
As facility owners, cutting back on social activities is a challenging decision, but one that you must make at this time for the safety and protection of the seniors in your care.
3. Screening All Personnel Before Entry
Along with restricted entry and visitation, you should also implement screening procedures to ensure no essential personnel with any signs or symptoms of illness—especially Coronavirus—are allowed in the building. Facility owners are finding that it helps to schedule employees in shifts to screen other employees and essential caregivers as they enter the facility.
Screen visitors for:
- Any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath)
- Any contact with a confirmed-positive case
- Any international or domestic travel within the last 14 days
Employees should have their temperature taken both on entry and when they leave the building. If their temperature is any higher than 100 degrees F, instruct them to go home and not come back to work until they are clear of signs of fever for 3-4 days.
Provide hand sanitizer, gloves, and masks to all essential personnel entering the building and remind them of proper PPE precautions and handwashing procedures to protect residents from possible exposure during their shifts.
4. Require Essential Staff and Caregivers to Wear PPE and Take Precautions
Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is in high demand these days. It is an essential practice to put in place—especially in the healthcare industry—if you want to protect your residents from Coronavirus.
Staff should wear protective facemasks at all times while in your facility, and especially when interacting with residents. Cloth face coverings are encouraged because they can be washed, sanitized, and reused if needed. Remind staff that the PPE is worn to protect residents, even if they’re not feeling ill.
Most facilities require nurses and resident aides to wear PPE—including facemasks, gloves, and gowns—when interacting with residents in their rooms and throughout the facility. Senior living center managers are encouraging staff to keep a safe social distance from residents, when possible, and to limit the number of residents gathered in common areas in the facility.
As per usual, staff should always follow proper handwashing protocol while on-shift. Facilities may want to provide extra hand sanitizer throughout the facility for both staff and residents to use throughout the day.
Cleaning staff should pay extra attention to touchpoints, like doorknobs, light switches, and railings. Your cleaning personnel should also wear PPE as they work in your facility and follow all the usual sanitization procedures with extra diligence.
5. Limiting Delivery Windows, Especially for Non-Commercial Deliveries
Under normal circumstances, group outings to grocery stores, pharmacies, and other essential businesses are a usual occurrence in senior living communities. However, during this pandemic, residents are strongly encouraged to stay home and have essential items delivered to the facility for their safety.
If your residents are on an independent meal plan, provide them with resources for grocery delivery from grocery stores in your area. Include information such as delivery fees, when to order, and when to expect delivery to help seniors plan their grocery needs around their dining schedules. Popular grocery delivery services like InstaCart, Amazon Fresh, and Walmart have subscription-based delivery services available that are affordable, easy to use, and convenient for residents who cannot go out and do their grocery shopping.
If family members drop off groceries and essential items for their loved one, make sure these items are delivered safely to the resident. Family members who are shopping for their loved ones should be encouraged to take proper precautions while shopping. Delivery items should get sanitized and wiped down before distribution.
Some facilities are taking the extra precaution to have deliveries of non-perishable items “rest” for a few days before distribution. Books, puzzles, games, and even shelf-stable food can wait for several days to ensure it’s free of any virus contamination.
Encourage delivery personnel to leave items in a safe spot outside your facility whenever possible. Staff can bring the items in, clean, and distribute them as needed. Encourage independent residents to take proper precautions to wash, sanitize, and clean mail, deliveries, and groceries before putting them away in their apartments.
Your facility should also limit delivery windows for non-scheduled deliveries. While deliveries like Amazon, U.S. Mail, and store-direct grocery deliveries can’t adjust to a custom schedule, ask residents’ families only to make deliveries during certain windows of the day.
6. Staying Informed of the Latest Guidelines and Updates
When overseeing a senior living facility, the most powerful thing you can do to protect your residents is to stay informed. Check with your local health department daily to ensure you receive the latest recommendations for COVID-19 prevention.
Partner with other local facilities or care centers in your network to make consistent decisions. It’s also important to remember that many senior living facility workers may work at multiple local care centers. Now is the time to take universal precautions to ensure the health and safety of all seniors in your area.
Sign up for any city and county alerts as well. You should regularly check with your civic organizations for any alerts or guidelines. State governors are setting and updating alerts daily, so it’s important to follow each update.
Finally, although it’s hard to view the news right now, it’s especially important to remain aware of what local officials are doing to protect senior living and nursing home residents from COVID-19. Set up news alerts and encourage senior living facility staff to stay aware and informed as well.
COVID-19 is an unprecedented threat to the safety and well being of the seniors in our care, but we can work together to make it through this difficult time.
Reliable Water Services is Here for You
Hot water is critical to health, sanitation, and safety in general, but it’s especially vital to the industries we serve—and the majority of those industries are considered essential businesses. As our customers remain operational during these unprecedented times, so does Reliable Water Services.
Making sure our customers have hot water has always been our main priority, and now more than ever, we are here for you. We will continue to provide 24/7 water heater services to our customers, ensuring you have the hot water your business relies on. Our office team is practicing social distancing by working remotely, while our service technicians and installing contractors are following extra safety guidelines to ensure they can service your building safely without putting themselves or your staff members at risk.
Our team at RWS has always viewed the relationship with each of our customers as a partnership. Through this partnership, we will work together and get through these unique and challenging times. As always, should you need service contact us 24/7 at 1-800-356-1444. Stay safe, and be well!