Keeping Our Residents Safe and Connected
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted the lives of many, ushering fear, loss, and anxiety. Yet, amidst its impact, a light of hope has shined through healthcare heroes everywhere, whose untiring efforts have helped to keep us safe.
Though significantly affected by this pandemic, the nursing home industry and our healthcare heroes remain ever vigilant, employing a number of safety measures to ensure the well-being of those in our care.
Below are some of the measures our industry has taken to keep you or your loved ones safe at skilled nursing care facilities (SNF) and assisted living communities (ALF):
- Skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities adopted careful infection prevention and hygiene procedures such as handwashing, cough etiquette, the appropriate wearing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), environmental cleaning, and disinfecting and reprocessing medical equipment.
- Many skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities, adopted technological solutions to communicate with resident families and responsible parties, including virtual visits on their loved one’s health status using apps like facetime and web conference tools.
- In May, all Connecticut nursing homes completed point-prevalence testing on all of its residents. Testing entailed a swab of every patient in the nursing home at that given time. Once results came back, this allowed non-symptomatic positive residents to be identified and placed into the appropriate area of the facilities. Once we could identify those infected in the facility and use the appropriate placement and precautions, getting rid of the virus became much more possible.
- In May, the Department of Public Health (DPH) announced requirements for all nursing homes to make an observation unit for new admissions. All new patients admitted to an SNF are placed into a private room with appropriate precautions and treated as suspected COVID-19 for 14 days, even if they have never had symptoms or a positive test. After the 14 days, the patient deemed “negative” for COVID-19 can be moved to another unit if they remain in the facility long term or go to a unit that is kept for patients that are negative for the virus.
- SNFs continue to designate positive COVID units, COVID negative units, and “unknown” or observation units to prevent further spreading of the virus. Each unit requires staff to follow specific PPE guidance, including the type of facemask, face shields, and gowns used.
- Weekly staff testing was started in June by DPH. DPH assigned several laboratory partners for weekly staff testing of all nursing home and assisted living employees. This weekly testing continues until no resident cases are in the facility, and no employee tests come back positive for two consecutive weeks. If a positive case does get newly confirmed, weekly testing re-starts.
- Technology has helped with facilitating both physician visits to patients but just as important – family visits. As an industry, we have utilized iPads, cell phones, and apps to connect families to their loved ones.
- In May, DPH gave guidance regarding visitation. Patients that are COVID-negative can have social distance window visits or outdoor visits with their family members. COVID-positive patients and patients suspected of possibly having the virus will continue virtual visits with family until they have fully recovered from the virus. Patients under their 14-day observation can do window visits if the placement of their room allows for appropriate access.
- All patients and residents continue to be screened and monitored for symptoms of COVID-19. Any change in condition is documented and reported to the appropriate governing body.
- Staff continues to get in-servicing and training on infection control, the latest DPH, and CDC guidance and monitoring of the situation.
If you or a family member may need the level of care offered by a skilled nursing facility or assisted living that cannot be provided at home, we hope this gives you some comfort on what we are doing to keep you or your loved one as safe as possible. Our goal is always to provide the best care and service to all of our residents, patients and families.
If you have any questions specific to some of the Department of Public Health Guidance listed above, you can visit their website at: https://portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus/Nursing-Homes-and-Assisted-Living-Facilities