As COVID-19 cases sweep across the nation, the most vulnerable groups have been identified as older adults—65 years and older—and those with underlying medical conditions. Consequently, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and long-term care facilities are being hit the hardest with cases.
ALFs are learning how to be proactive instead of reactive to keep cases low, and while states are beginning to relax restrictions, be sure to refer to your own state’s guidelines when making decisions. Prematurely easing visitor restrictions, reinstating communal dining, and allowing group activities for residents can quickly result in an uptick in cases.
COVID-19 Cases: First Steps
So what are the immediate steps your ALF should take if there are any cases?
If you look at the government responses around the world to Coronavirus, you’ll see that those who reacted quickest and took the virus seriously have had the best results in reducing the spread of new cases.
Here is how you can take action when a case emerges at your ALF:
Have a point of contact identified at your local health department who you can notify of new COVID-19 cases at your ALF, whether it’s among residents or staff. This person should be contacted if:
- There are cases suspected or confirmed at your facility
- There are symptoms resulting in hospitalization, particularly respiratory infections
- There are 3 or more individuals at your facility with respiratory symptoms within 72 hours of each other
You want this contact person on speed-dial, that’s how critical it is. The health department consists of professionals who have been trained to assist in preventing further infection and ensuring control measures are in place. Don’t expect to handle this alone.
Ensuring everyone is practicing source control when around others is an important preventative measure. This means everyone is using a facemask or face covering over their mouth and nose to prevent the spread of germs that may contain the virus when speaking, coughing, or sneezing.
Other measures to take to prevent spreading the virus to other residents and personnel at your ALF:
- Encourage social distancing. This means no group activities, meetings, and communal dining. Residents should remain at least 6 feet from each other.
- Have a clear plan for all restrictions among residents, visitors, and staff. Be sure to communicate what restrictions are in place so everyone is on the same page. (Implementing signage around your facility is one way to provide information about visitation policies, for example).
- Implement non-punitive and flexible sick leave policies for staff
Designated care unit
Establish a designated area for COVID-19-positive residents and implement a staffing plan. This will help give time to relocate residents and to identify health care personnel who can safely work in this space. This unit should ideally be physically separated from other healthy units to prevent spreading the virus.
All health care personnel working in COVID-19 confirmed spaces should be properly trained on preventative measures, like the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Plan for suspected cases
Be sure to have a plan in place not only for confirmed cases but for unconfirmed cases as well. If the COVID-19 status is unknown, consider options like placing the resident in a single room or a separate area where they can be monitored.
At iCareManager, we offer a care tracking tool that can help your staff track and log the support they provide.
If you suspect any individuals at your ALF of having COVID-19, there should be careful investigation and testing. Visit the CDC.gov to learn more about how you can be prepared.
Photo credit: DW.com