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Nursing homes innovate during pandemic

April 4, 2020

By Katelyn Lawson staff writer for the Tullahoma News klawson@tullahomanews.com Responsible for the care of the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic, nursing homes were some of the first establishments to take action, limiting access to their facilities to protect their residents during the crisis. While isolating their residents from the spread of the coronavirus, several centers are also working to enrich the lives of those who live on their campuses. In Tullahoma, three assisted living facilities and nursing homes have revealed what initiatives they are taking during this time of quarantine as they do everything from bingo in the halls to embarking on pen pal programs.

Brookdale “Brookdale is taking precautionary measures, following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has released guidelines for employers and businesses to contain the spread of the virus,” said Brookdale Public Relations Project Manager Heather Hunter. “Brookdale’s number-one priority is the health and safety of our residents, patients, and associates. We remain focused on prevention. We are acting with an abundance of caution, reinforcing our policies and procedures for contagious illnesses such as influenza with staff. These include reminders about flu vaccines, washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, staying home when sick, and taking flu antivirals as prescribed. We have a corporate emergency response team in place to provide support to the local teams, especially in the event of a confirmed case of COVID-19. In regards to visitor protocol, the facility is restricting visitors to Brookdale communities with the exception of end-of-life situations or pursuant to the guidance of public health officials. In cases such as this, visitors will continue to be screened prior to entry and restricted to their loved one’s room or another designated area within the community. Brookdale staff is conducting health screenings on anyone coming into the community. “Brookdale has suspended all sponsored or planned group outings and is requesting that, unless medically necessary, residents refrain from making trips from the community. If a confirmed case occurs, the plan is to continue to act in full compliance with the CDC, local and state health authorities. The CDC has guidance for confirmed cases in healthcare settings including steps to minimize chances for exposure, adhering to personal protection protocols and managing visitor access,” the statement read. NHC “We are following all of the guidelines of all state, federal and local authorities. Our goal is to keep everyone safe and healthy. It is a time to be creative, for sure. We are already receiving mail from unknown people sending little drawings, notes and all sorts of things that we are delivering to patients who may or may not have a lot of family or friends in the area,” NHC administrator Jaine Colley said. “We are being creative in our recreation activities; everywhere from hallway bingo to just singing in the hallways and those sorts of things. We are being extra cautious and trying to protect our patients, residents as well as ourselves and still continuing to provide the quality care that we give every day,” she added. “I believe that if we do what we are being asked to do that we can turn things around faster than we have seen in other areas,” she said. “If everyone will do what they are supposed to do, we can make this shorter in duration.” Life Care Center “We are continuing to carry out the activities scheduled on our calendar as we normally do. It is just in their rooms now. We have been setting residents up to FaceTime their families. The residents who are not able, we have been connecting them with their families on laptops or over the phone, trying to keep them in contact with their families as much as possible,” Activities Coordinator Glenda Stephens said. “We have also arranged different kinds of crafts that are easy yet inspirational to brighten up their rooms. We are giving them things to do like puzzle books, magazines, Bible books, movies and CDs. We try to make sure that we are doing these things daily to keep them busy.” “We do have a laptop and tablet that we have available for residents who are familiar with them to go online,” she added. Life Change staff has also been going around giving manicures and pedicures to residents to keep their minds of off things. This past week, they implemented a new beauty care where staff will go around with curling irons and other hair styling tools to fix up residents’ hair due to the house cosmetologist not being able to come to work at this time. “We are trying to get them outside. We have two different patio areas where we are permitted to take one resident out at a time. Getting them out into the sunshine helps a lot. We still obey the six feet rule, but make sure that everyone gets a turn to sit outside,” Stephens said. “I would really like to get a pen pal program started with some youth or something to encourage people to write letters to residents and patients. Residents love getting cards in the mail, even if it is a drawing that someone drew themselves. It is very personable and they enjoy it. Getting cards and knowing that they are being prayed for and being given words of encouragement means so much to them,” she said. “Anyone wanting to participate and send some mail to the residents can mail them to 1715 N. Jackson St. with “ATTN: Activities Department” written on the envelope as well. The ones who are able to write would love to write back to the participants. If they are not able to write, we will help them write it and send it back, creating a pen pal relationship to help them pass the time and also get to know someone they probably would have never met otherwise.” “The activities department is still making sure that the residents can participate in bingo, their favorite activity. For the time being, they are playing in their room and staff is calling out the numbers over the intercom. We also let the employees play to boost the moral and to let them know that they are still included and that we care about them too. These are stressful times for all of us. It is good for staff to know that they are thought of,” Stephens said. The News reached out to Morning Pointe Assisted Living of Tullahoma about how they were boosting moral and keeping patients spirits up while still following CDC guidelines. The facility declined to comment. Katelyn Lawson may be reached at klawson@tullahomanews.com.

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