Nursing home did right thing to curb visitors

Published 8:18 am Monday, March 16, 2020

This week, local nursing homes out of concern for their residents, closed their doors to visitors. Later in the week Sycamore Springs Assisted Living began restricting visitors to protect its residents and caregiving staff in the event of a potential outbreak of COVID-19, otherwise known as coronavirus.
Nursing home residents are at a heightened risk of serious complications from the illness because of the dual threat of age and close living conditions.
Our nursing home residents and other seniors in our community are among our most fragile — but precious resources. Also among that number are the people who work in the nursing home and care for the elderly residents.
The coronavirus is the first of its type in the U.S., where 2.2 million people in long-term care settings may be at heightened risk because of age and underlying health conditions.
The American Health Care Association, which represents 13,500 nonprofit and for-profit facilities for seniors and disabled people, issued updated guidelines last week in response to an outbreak of the coronavirus in a Washington state nursing home. The new virus is thought to spread primarily via droplets in the air, and guidelines largely echo strategies recommended to stem the spread of other respiratory viruses, such as influenza and pneumonia. That includes frequent hand sanitation among staff and visitors, and more importantly keeping your distance if you are sick.
However, it has been proven that you can have the coronavirus and not have any symptoms. It was wise of local nursing home administrators to take the actions they did this week to protect their residents.
Coronavirus is scary. The situation may be akin to that on cruise ships, such as the Diamond Princess that was quarantined off the coast of Japan, with one key exception. People on cruise ships can be confined to their rooms with minimal interaction with staff and fellow residents. People in nursing homes are there because they need help with activities of daily living.
Limiting visitors is the first and major precaution local nursing homes are taking to contain and limit the possible spread of the virus. The coronavirus poses a special challenge for these facilities. They must prepare for staff shortages, stockpile thermometers and masks, and do extra cleaning to protect their residents.
Federal rules already require the homes to have an infection prevention specialist on staff, and many have long had measures in place to deal with seasonal flus and other ailments that pose a higher risk to the elderly.
Even so, facilities’ response to the coronavirus has varied across the country.
Already, most nursing homes had posted signs urging visitors to stay away if they had flu symptoms or colds. They are now urging families to look into alternate ways to connect, such as phone calls and video chats. Under federal regulations, nursing homes are considered a patient’s residence, and the facilities want to keep them connected with family.
Telephone calls are good as are video chats, but nothing takes the place of holding a loved one’s hand, seeing their smile when you walk into their room. But, as one resident has always said about difficult times in her life: “This, too shall pass.” And, it will.

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