WITH THE FEAR OF PANDEMIC, We see senior living as what it truly is…living! Never has it been truer that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Renew Saddle Rock Memory Care has continuously demonstrated its leadership and innovation in the delivery of senior care and quality of life to its residents. We want our families and staff to be assured that we have systematically and deliberately created a comprehensive response plan to this virus in an effort to keep everyone safe (copies are available from the wellness department). We are not waiting for this health crisis to visit us, we have created a solid plan using the most informed sources to target stopping this virus in its tracks.
As the Coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, scientists are learning more about its effects on people. Not all patients with COVID-19 will require medical supportive care. According to recent findings the CDC reports that 80% of the people who become infected with the virus will only experience mild to moderately ill effects and can safely be treated as you would from the flu or influenza by staying at home, getting plenty of rest and pushing fluids. Approximately 15% will become severely ill and while still able to remain isolated at home may experience more significant symptoms such as shortage of breath while the virus runs its course. The remaining 5% of the victims can become critically ill and will require hospitalization and may develop pneumonia in both lungs, experience multi-organ failure, and in some cases death. Clinical management for hospitalized patients with COVID-19 is focused on supportive care of complications, including advanced organ support for respiratory failure, septic shock, and multi-organ failure. While most people recover from this virus, the fatality rate is now estimated at between 2.8 – 3.4 percent for the overall population but rises to 8% in patients between the ages of 70-79 and 14.8% in patients over 80.
The available data is currently insufficient to identify risk factors for severe clinical outcomes. From the limited data that is available for COVID-19 infected patients, and for data from related coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, it is possible that older adults, and persons who have underlying chronic medical conditions, such as immunocompromising conditions, may be at risk for more severe outcomes.
Given the highly transmissible nature of the coronavirus and the limited treatment options available in severe cases, prevention will be our senior living community’s first line of defense. While we cannot guarantee that COVID-19 will not enter the community, planning for a potential emerging infectious disease pandemic, like COVID-19, is critical to protecting the health and welfare of our residents who are most vulnerable to the effects it can cause. Renew has taken a leadership role in creating innovative barriers to protect our residents and staff from this risk. Our communicable disease response plan was designed with the involvement of public health officials, our medical director and nursing clinicians to apply educational, clinical, operational and preventive measures to assure the safety of our residents and the staff who serve them to the highest clinical certainty possible. Our comprehensive plan was also adapted from HHS Pandemic Influenza Planning resources, recommendations of the Center for Disease control for healthcare facilities and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR).
The Renew plan is specific to our assisted living and memory care buildings and identifies preventative activities that we can do now to prepare for, respond to and be resilient in the face of COVID-19. We have incorporated elements to assure continuation of essential services such as pharmacy, food services, maintenance, housekeeping and wellness. We have determined likely resource shortages and identified relevant vendors, cache and options for managing shortages. We have already contacted vendors to determine their emergency plans for inventory acquisition, substitutes and delivery.
Renew Senior Communities created this comprehensive response plan back on February 27th after the first cases had been identified in the USA. The plan outlines specific steps that we are talking to educate our staff and families, creating communication protocols and involving public health officials in the event of an outbreak within our buildings. We have also developed plans for implementing building security and controlled access (which has been phased) during peak pandemic weeks to assure controlled ingress and egress and monitoring. We also have a plan in the event public health officials close schools and what impact this may have on our staffing. We have concurrently evaluated our list of applicants that we do have and creating a process for rapid credentialing for them and non-facility staff to supplement our health care staff. We have also developed as part of our response plan procedures for reporting resident/staff who are symptomatic to our physicians and the hospital. We have also designated a point of contact for health officials.
Education and training of staff, residents, visitors, and volunteers is essential. We have executed a plan for providing just-in-time staff education via electronic and other non-classroom means including information about COVID-19, transmission, infection prevention measures, usual clinical symptoms and course, risk factors, and complications. Among the topics discussed, and best practices implemented, are: Hand hygiene (frequent washing, use of gloves, and use of hand sanitizers); respiratory hygiene / cough and sneeze etiquette (use of disposable tissues, or elbow when tissues unavailable, use of facemasks); environmental cleaning (wiping down surfaces with antibacterial / virucide cleansers; monitoring waste disposal best practices (e.g. touchless, lined wastebaskets). All points of entry for our buildings have been equipped with mandatory sanitation resources for staff and visitors to utilize upon each entry.
Trainings of staff and volunteers are covering the following: sources of exposure, prevention, recognition of symptoms, response when an outbreak has been identified, communication protocols, education of residents and visitors about prevention practices, response, and precautions which have been implemented at the community. As the virus has spread we have implemented protocols for restricting staff travel (leisure or work-related), including international travel to countries with confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
In addition to our COVID-19 response plan, Renew Saddle Rock Memory Care routinely exercises precautions against the spread of infectious diseases that are rigorously observed, even if there is no suspicion of the coronavirus being present. For example, all employees wear masks and gloves from the moment they enter the community until they leave for the day. We also take everyone’s temperature each time they enter the building and maintain a log of those readings. Employees who are not feeling well are instructed to stay at home and not potentially expose residents and coworkers to infection, we have a symptom tracking system to monitor any residents or staff with even the slightest issue. Similarly, some of our residents’ contract with hospice and home health providers for private duty aid assistance, has now been severely restricted and only permitted at predetermined intervals in certain areas of our community in full personal protective gear.
Our staff have been heroic in their efforts to keep our residents safe. They have been vigilant both at work serving our residents and also at home. Our kitchens have produced employee
meals during their shift as well as take home meals they can bring back to their families to avoid the need to buy groceries and go out into the community risking exposure. Families have responded overwhelmingly in support of them by posting signs outside the buildings with messages of encouragement “Heroes work in here”, “We appreciate you”, “Thank you for loving our loved ones” and “You Rock”. Sometimes we may feel like we are only a tiny drop in a sea of uncertainty, but sometimes a ray of sunshine hits one of those drops just right and it sparkles. Thank you to our families for bringing the sparkle to the smiles of our employees.
We know that it can be so difficult for families not to visit their loved ones in person, but we have
created viewing areas where families can come to see their loved ones and have a conversation by phone, FaceTime, or Skype. Sometimes we will visit our residents in the hospital and play a recorded video on our phone, such as a get well card from some of their friends and favorite employees back at Renew to wish them a speedy recovery and say that we miss them. Our families and now encouraged to do the same with their family and friends: have a video greeting card made at home and email it to us. We then take it directly to them for viewing! At this time all of our efforts appear to be working. There is not now nor has there ever been a confirmed case of COVID-19 in any of our communities. We are doing everything in our power to keep it that way.