With every passing day, communities work to further their understanding and response to COVID-19. Administrators and staff leading senior living and long-term care facilities undoubtedly face some of the most complex challenges when developing solutions that protect their own community, vulnerable senior residents. However, they are confronting these challenges by putting new standards in place that ensure seniors are safe and comfortable.
“Everyone must have their temperature taken before officially entering a nursing home and will likely have to answer several screening questions regarding symptoms or exposure to COVID-19. Visitors will almost surely be asked to wear a mask and possibly other protection while visiting,” said VNA Chief Medical Officer Mary Fox, MD, ABFM.
Long-term care facilities must follow specific guidelines provided by the Department of Quality, Safety and Oversight of the Center for Medicare (CMS) to fully reopen. The guidelines outlined include rapid COVID-19 testing and full personal protective equipment (PPE) provided to facility staff. Organizations are working hard to meet those standards, and some are getting support from other entities that can help improve practices to meet the requirements.
Visiting Nurse Association has had conversations with organization leaders on ways to support and manage care from outside providers as restrictions are lifted. The care from VNA includes expanding digital capabilities via virtual communication and a significant increase in the use of PPE during visits.
“VNA continues to make every effort to help our nursing home and senior living community partners and establish mutually agreed upon protocols in order for VNA health care staff to make the necessary check-ins and visits to our patients,” said Dr. Fox.
VNA has also continued working with residents’ caregivers to administer counsel and keep care plans for loved ones on track. There are ongoing calls from nurses, nurse aides, the chaplain and volunteers to families. Beyond the physical and clinical areas of discussion, mental wellness and pastoral care are regularly provided. It’s important to keep lines of communication open with families so they know familiar providers, like the VNA, are still caring for their loved ones even with limited access.
According to Dr. Fox, “As life in COVID world continues, VNA is exploring creative ways to partner with nursing homes and senior living facilities to improve access to patients and education for all staff to ensure the best care possible for our patients and their caregivers.”