How to help seniors in closed facilities during Coronavirus shutdown

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Supportive and attentive staff can help senior citizens weather the Coronavirus-related shutdown in group-care facilities. Family members can assist by staying in contact via phone calls and letters. Courtesy photo.

During the current storm of concerns about the Coronavirus pandemic, family members may be concerned about their vulnerable elderly relatives in nursing homes, assisted living, rehab facilities or even independent living communities.

As of Monday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s Executive Order 17 was in effect, directing how businesses and people should work to protect people during the epidemic. Visits are now limited just to those involving essential care at nursing homes, retirement homes and long-term care or assisted-living facilities.

Two Bartlett senior facilities, Robinwood Retirement Resort and Quail Ridge Assisted Living & Memory Care, described the steps they are taking to ensure their residents’ safety.

Johnny Williamson, manager at Robinwood Retirement Resort, said his facility – like many others in the Mid-South – was already closed to nonessential visitors as of Friday. That includes family members, clergy, entertainers, beauticians and others. As a precaution about spreading the virus, only medical personnel and necessary maintenance professionals are currently given access.

But that doesn’t mean Robinwood’s senior citizens are totally secluded. Families, churches and other groups are welcome to send care packages to their senior citizens. The gifts can be left at the front office, Williamson said, and the packages will be delivered.

He noted that Robinwood already has multiple hand sanitizer stations.

Residents also can receive calls, Williamson said. His best advice to concerned family members is, “Check on them often during the day. It reassures them and comforts them.”

Robinwood’s cautious closure of the facility to the public echoes the advice given by the Centers for Disease Control to limit exposure to possible virus carriers.

At Quail Ridge Assisted Living & Memory Care in Bartlett, Executive Director Dawn Blankenship said Friday that her facility is currently locked down to all visitors except for doctors. Because it is a memory care facility, they are not allowing patients to step outside unsupervised to visit with family members during the closure.

But that doesn’t mean the residents are entirely cut off from their families.

“Currently, we are doing FaceTime and Skype and phone calls,” Blankenship said. “We are also posting pictures on Facebook. … We’re making sure families know that this is a happy place.”

At the moment Quail Ridge prefers not to receive personal care packages for residents because it’s not yet clear how long the Coronavirus lives on package surfaces, she said.
Aside from these precautions, Quail Ridge continues to provide the same level of service and remains fully staffed.

Blankenship said, “We are taking care of residents business as usual, giving them some extra love since they’re not able to spend that time with their families at this time.”

Coronavirus advice

In general, the CDC recommends these steps for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities:

  • Restrict all visitation except for certain compassionate care situations, such as end-of-life situations.
  • Restrict all volunteers and non-essential healthcare personnel, including non-essential healthcare personnel (e.g., barbers).
  • Cancel all group activities and communal dining.
  • Implement active screening of residents and healthcare providers for fever and respiratory symptoms.

For more advice from the CDC, visit cdc.gov.