GLASGOW – In the two weeks since recommendations were made to long-term care facilities to implement added precautions to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus, administrators have tried to allow for some level of normalcy amid the significant changes.
On March 9, health and government officials recommended restricting visitation to such facilities with the exception being for those receiving end-of-life care and with death considered imminent, and by the next day, most, if not all, were doing so. Persons 60 and over and/or with underlying health conditions are considered most at risk for the virus to take hold and do the most damage.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Kentucky had about 163 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.
Kay Bush, co-owner and administrator at Glenview Health & Rehab, and Denise Billingsley, administrator at NHC of Glasgow, said residents are not confined to their rooms but are asked to maintain distance among them, and small-group activities, continue but with the extra spacing.
“If I can keep them 6 feet away, I feel like it’s still important for them to come out,” Bush said.
Bush said some folks at Glenview already eat their meals in their rooms for various reasons, but those who still wish to eat in one of the three dining areas may do so. She said they have to sit at a table by themselves, but at least they can see and talk with other people.
Billingsley, though, said the dining rooms at NHC are closed, so all meals are delivered to residents’ rooms.
In addition to limiting those who can enter the building to staff and other medical professionals or care providers such as for hospice, staff members are taking across-the-board precautions as well, such as screening even the individuals who are allowed to enter.
Bush said those individuals have their temperature taken and are asked a few questions, and provided they can go from there, they are immediately escorted to a bathroom to wash their hands, before they can go onto the floor where residents are.
“That is done every day, every shift, every hour,” she said. “We only use one point of entry into the building.”
She later added that deliveries are taken into the basement and a staff person goes to collect them, but the delivery drivers are never on the main floor where residents are. Bush said she’s noticed that most delivery drivers are wearing gloves these days, too.
Staff members always wore gloves when providing services directly to residents, but now they are to wash their hands upon entering the room, don the gloves, and then remove them and wash their hands again when leaving the room, Bush said.
She said they use the facility’s Facebook page to post photos of residents, where permissible, to show their families how they are and to show them messages on large cards, for example.
Both she and Billingsley said staff members help residents use their own phones, if necessary, or provide other devices available so they can make calls and/or have video chats with family members and friends.
“We have told families that they, if they want to come out and be at a window where they can actually see their loved, one, they can, but that really – no one’s taken us up on that, but it’s out there on the table if they want to do that, and I think the reason they haven’t is because of all the rain,” Bush said.
Billingsley said, “We do have some family members that are still visiting they are going to their person’s window and they’re on the phone, but physically they’re separated.”
She said the changes probably have been the most challenging for individuals who were there for shorter-term stays for rehabilitation.
“Many of them have family members that are used to being with them nonstop,” Billingsley said. “We certainly appreciate everyone’s understanding and cooperation and we’re doing everything we can to keep that virus away from our very vulnerable population.”
Signature HealthCARE, which has a facility in Glasgow, announced via a corporate press release several ways it is helping residents keep safe but not isolated. Those include expanding the platform for normally for telemedicine to help residents access certain kinds of healthcare remotely so that families can set up a videoconference with their loved one; Internet/WiFi availability along with cell phone, FaceTime and Skype capabilities for connecting with families; virtual chaplain visits; and letters and cards from family, friends and others.
“Our facilities remain under ‘limited access’ which means no individual, regardless of reason, can enter a facility, except under certain and very specific circumstances, such as an end-of-life situation or when critical for a resident’s emotional well-being and care,” a March 17 press release stated.
A follow-up press release the following day added, “Our stakeholders are following general infection control procedures, as well as those instructed by the CDC and other government agencies which include: screening all stakeholders and residents daily for symptoms of the virus, hand washing, cleaning equipment, and utilizing face masks and other protective equipment in the event a resident exhibits symptoms of the virus or a facility accepts a resident with a confirmed case.
“We also will notify all required local health agencies of any suspected exposures we encounter and follow the local health agency’s protocol in notifying other potentially exposed residents, families, and stakeholders.
“We sincerely appreciate our families, visitors, vendors, residents, and communities’ understanding in abiding by the visitation limitations mandated by the government. These restrictions will remain in place until the government instructs us otherwise, and the facility deems it safe for our residents and staff. And we cannot say “Thank You” loudly enough to our stakeholders who are working tirelessly to help keep our residents, their, families, and each other safe and healthy.”
A message requesting and interview was left for Jason Gumm, administrator for Barren County Nursing and Rehabilitation, but the call had not been returned in time for publication.