Local senior care facilities are taking extra precaution to protect the most at-risk population

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Local senior care facilities are taking precautions to protect against the coronavirus. (WYDaily file/Courtesy of Unsplash)
Local senior care facilities are taking precautions to protect against the coronavirus. (WYDaily file/Courtesy of Unsplash)

Older populations are at greater risk of complications from the coronavirus (COVID-19) and local senior care facilities have had to ramp up their precautions to protect their residents.

At Edgeworth Park, an assisted living and memory care facility in Williamsburg, staff and residents are taking extra precautions to make sure the virus doesn’t reach them.

“It’s been quite a process,” said Jennifer Henning, executive director. “It’s not just about keeping our residents safe, but keeping our family safe as a whole, and that includes employees and their families.”

Edgeworth has 74 residents and employs 78 full-time and part-time staff. 

While none of those residing or working in the facility have shown any signs of having contracted the virus, Henning said they aren’t taking any chances.

The care facility has changed its policies recently to match guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from the Virginia Department of Health. This means Edgeworth has restricted visitation to only essential personnel for end-of-life instances and is not allowing visitation to guests.

“It’s very difficult for family members to stay away and not visit their loved ones, but a majority understand we are trying to protect them,” Henning said.

In the meantime, residents are being provided with electronic forms of communication, such as iPads and access to video chats, that allow them to interact with their loved ones. Henning said she has even had requests from families to stand on opposite sides of the window from their loved one and talk on the telephone.

Henning said she encourages this because it helps the residents still feel connected to the outside world.

“It’s very important that they have some sort of social engagement,” she said. “You don’t want anyone to feel isolated because social interaction is a basic human need.”

Henning added that residents are also allowed to move throughout the building as needed so if they wanted to take a walk in the courtyard, for example, they would have that opportunity. 

The facility is also limiting social interaction but still trying to find ways to have residents engage with staff and others while social distancing themselves.

Staff are also still interacting with residents but the care facility is taking extra steps to make sure they are not spreading the virus. 

All staff are required to enter and exit through the same door every day, at which point they undergo a series of screening questions based on contact and travel history and have their temperatures taken. 

In addition, the owners of Edgeworth—John Liebler, Derrick Robertson and Scott Wise— have decided to provide free meals to employees during their shifts.

The facility is continuing to take extra precautions, such as monitoring residents’ temperatures everyday, but will also change its procedures and restrictions based on recommendations from federal and state health departments.

“It’s a fluid situation,” Henning said. “Everyone needs to understand that communities in our situation, with our demographic, are really trying to protect our residents. It’s tough times but everyone is doing their part to combat this.”

Williamsburg Landing has also taken steps to protect its residents and staff.

Lisa Bates, chief marketing officer for the retirement and assisted facility, said some services such as communal dining services have stopped and housekeeping services for residents’ homes are suspended for the rest of the month.

Staff now leave pre-packed meals at the residents’ doorstep and accept outside deliveries at the gate.

Some transportation services have been suspended such as trips to the malls, but Bates said they will continue to transport residents to grocery stores and medical appointments.

Residents must now enter and exit using the front gate only and employees must use the back gate.

All visitors are screened at the front gate with questions about their recent history with the coronavirus. The questions range from if the visitor is experiencing symptoms or if the person has worked in a health care setting with confirmed cases. Those who answer yes are considered high risk and cannot enter the facilities.

While there are no active cases of the coronavirus at Williamsburg Landing, Bates said they have restricted visitation to certain facilities.

The Assisted Living, Memory Support & Health & Rehabilitation Center is closed to visitors until further notice. Exceptions are made for Williamsburg Landing residents who have spouses in those facilities or families of residents who are critically ill or at the end of life.

When asked how Williamsburg Landing was safeguarding staff during these changes, Bates said they have meetings with the facility’s incident management team run by Elizabeth “Liz” Bonney, a nurse trained in risk management.

“We’re meeting daily, every day as a management team,” Bates said and added the board of directors and management are on site.

Residents are updated about the protective measures taken by the facility and staff were educated about current CDC guidelines, Bates said.

“We’re reassigning staff to minimize contact,” Bates said, adding now the health club and adult care are closed, some staff are helping with meals.

Currently, staff who are in direct care of residents have safety masks, gloves and other protective equipment and all employees including health care staff are temperature tested, Bates said.

On the facility’s website, there is a message to visitors and a link to the facility’s emergency plan which is updated as needed.

Screenshot of the Williamsburg Landing's website. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Williamsburg Landing)
Screenshot of the Williamsburg Landing’s website. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Williamsburg Landing)

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