Nursing homes fight isolation

By Dave Taylor

Nursing homes and care facilities are shut down to visitors, effectively cutting off an already separated segment from society, but community donations and extra attention have brought comfort to the residents there.
Heartland Villa and The Oaks Personal Care Home are both closed to all visitors, but staff are taking extra precautions to protect the residents at each one, who are among the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus.
“Normally our residents are in our dining room and they eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together and they’re able to do activities,” said Dana Gammon-Ahmed, administrator of Heartland Villa. “Different religious organizations come in and offer mass or they offer gospel sermons, things of that nature, and unfortunately all of that has had to stop.”
After closing the building to outsiders, further mandates came from the state saying residents needed to stay in their own rooms.
“Of course the biggest impact meant that our residents don’t get to interact with their families,” she said. “We even have families that bring in snacks for them and do their laundry, things of that nature, so all of that has had to stop.”
“So now we’ve just gotten creative and we are doing activities in the residents’ room,” she said.
They had a cooking competition for St. Patricks Day, and staff come play cards or games with the residents.
But the home also makes use of technology to allow families to see and talk to their loved ones.
“My residents’ families, they have been given my number and they’ll just set up a time where they say hey, can I talk to my mom now or my aunt and I’ll say sure absolutely and I take the my phone and they Facetime,” she said.
Others are going more old school.
“We’ve had family members come and visit their family at their windows,” she said. “The family has been standing outside on the phone and then they’ll be on our phone here at work and they’ll talk to each other and they can actually see each other that way… It’s different to see a picture of your family member and then actually be able to see them with your own eyes and say OK, Mom’s OK or Granny’s OK.”
But protecting residents from outsiders isn’t the only way they’re staying safe because staff is also stepping up cleaning and disinfecting, stopping every two hours to clean wherever they are.
“Literally everything in the patients’ rooms, their remotes, their TVs, their call lights, their beds, get cleaned and disinfected and sprayed off and all of that,” she said.
Even the staff are monitored closely and checked for any signs of the virus to make sure they aren’t bringing it inside.
“We come in one way, we go out the same way, we are screened every time we go through that door,” she said.
It’s the same at The Oaks, where the only ones allowed to enter or leave are staff.
“Normally we allow visitors,” said Oaks administrator Brenda Conner. “Normally the residents are allowed to go out in the community. They’re not allowed to leave.”
“No one is allowed to come in or out except for staff, and when you do come in you’ve got to get your temperature taken and you get questions asked of you also,” she said.
No one at the home has the virus, but if anyone is suspected or confirmed to have it they will be quarantined and taken to the hospital, she said.
At Heartland Villa, donations from the community are easing the restrictive lifestyle just a little bit.
“The community has been awesome because I now have masks for every resident and every staff member,” said Gammon-Ahmed, “which means that now my people can go to the beauty shop and get their hair done, where before they weren’t going to be able to do that because we didn’t have enough masks.”
Community members have donated unused masks and even made their own using patterns online.
“I so sincerely appreciate the community for being able to give us these masks because that’s just going to open up more interactions that are going to be able to take place now that haven’t been able to take place,” she said.
The lockdown has had a positive effect on the relationships between staff and residents, she said,

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