Almost a million elders live in about 25,000 assisted-living facilities in America, and most of these individuals suffer from health conditions. With the COVID-19 pandemic, older adults are more vulnerable, as seen in multiple assisted-living facility outbreaks. They have an increased risk of being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, especially those with underlying health conditions. Plus, there is a higher risk of getting infected with the virus for individuals who frequently spend time in a larger group of people. For assisted-living facilities, these individuals are sharing communal areas in one building.
To prevent further transmission and potentially save lives, one should take considerations and interventions into action. Here are some of the concerns that should be given attention.
Get people to undergo testing
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of their priorities is to engage in symptomatic testing of individuals at risk. Testing should include adults of old age, especially those with medical complications or living in long-term facilities or hospice care. Older people who fit in these circumstances should be identified and prioritized for screening to avoid further issues and the transmission of the virus.
Actively monitor and plan
It is vital to re-evaluate, improve, and implement emergency action plans to be prepared for the pandemic. It is the facility’s responsibility to plan and prepare for the residents’ protection and safety. Simultaneously, active surveillance and planning should be settled in collaboration with local public health departments to ensure professional guidance and resources for testing that may not always be available. Moreover, a plan for when someone confirms as COVID-19 positive can be effectively created and followed. The great number of older adults living in these settings may easily result in an overwhelming outbreak.
Therefore, it is crucial to monitor and assess current testing plans, the scope and reach of the area, occupancy rates, and supplies of necessities or protective gear to prioritize and allocate resources. On top of that, it is best to accurately identify residents with existing medical conditions to establish the most appropriate plan that can cater to every individual residing in the facility.
Establish strict rules and policies
Assisted-living facilities should implement firm rules and policies to protect residents or staff living and working in care facilities. Meeting visitors from outside the facility should follow a strict protocol that can cater to the residents’ needs while still ensuring their safety at all times.
Alternative methods for visitation and communication with the resident should be organized, such as video meetings and the like. Other than visitor restrictions, one should strictly put source control in place. The use of a facemask is required to avoid the outspread of respiratory secretions whenever a person will sneeze, cough, or even talk. Procedures for going outside of the facility must also be present.
Furthermore, facilities should heavily implement infection prevention and control or IPC practices. Individuals should be assigned to take charge in following a routine during the pandemic. Policies and protocols that are justifiable and flexible are recommended to encourage the residents to stay at home, not break any rules.
Communicate and educate everyone
It is also best to educate current residents and the staff and visitors about the existing precautions that should be taken in the facility. One should inform residents and their families on topics such as the facility’s actions to prevent the virus from spreading, visitor restrictions, the importance of source control or hand hygiene, and many more. The facility should update families of residents on the changes in the facility as well. For example, the residents and visitors must know that they must notify any staff of any developing symptoms of COVID-19 within 14 days of visiting.
Explaining and identifying the necessary steps to protect them from the virus can make preventing COVID-19 easier and more efficient. Further, the pandemic might trigger stress and anxiety for some of the residents living in the facility. Besides their physical health, one should give the residents’ mental and emotional health attention and solutions for managing these emotions.
Finally, combining all these points and maintaining the policies and procedures formulated will be extremely helpful to protect and keep the residents safe from the virus. In a time like this, it is essential to regularly monitor and assess the facility’s state and its residents in terms of health and hygiene to avoid unfortunate and grave cases in the future.