As the owner of a 42-bed memory care facility and as a Command Officer with the RCFE Disaster Preparedness Task Force, I have a keen interest in public health and safety for all residents living in an Assisted Living environment. This new virus, COVID-19, has created several challenging problems for our residents, staff, vendors and families. In this blog post, I would like to share some steps that our facility is taking to ensure our community’s safety and wellbeing.
Rescue and Shelter
We must consider this situation like any other natural disaster. Typically, the first phase of the disaster response is rescue and shelter in place. In this case no rescue was necessary since all our residents are living with us in a memory care community at Olivenhain Guest Home. Shelter in place providing food, shelter and protection from potential viral exposure is what we do every day for residents suffering from dementia. We also continue to stay informed and monitor the situation—it’s evolving and changing daily as we learn more about the virus from scientists around the world.
At Olivenhain Guest Home, we have gone from questionnaires and temperature taking of all visitors, staff, and family to voluntary quarantine or “lockdown.” This involves not allowing any non-essential visitors or family in the facility. For the residents of a memory care facility, any substantial change in their day to day lives can be upsetting and confusing. While restricting visits is a difficult decision, we find it to be the most prudent approach to protecting our residents.
Many of our residents came from homes or situations where social isolation was common. If their spouse has gone, often they’d be alone for many hours each day. A social network of any kind is important for quality of life, health and wellbeing. In our community, we usually have live music 7 days a week and a very busy activity schedule. For now, we had to ask our musicians not to come by as a way to practice social distancing.
For our residents who are cognitively impaired or memory impaired, they could react to the stress we as caregivers display. So we do our best to present a pleasant, stress limited environment by participating in activities such as flower arranging, painting, gardening, etc. TV viewing is limited with little attention given to the news. The media has been useful for disseminating information nationally, but the dramatic background music and bold, scary headlines can be very agitating for our residents. We are wrapping our residents in a bubble of love and laughter while maneuvering through the hurdles of providing proper nutrition, stimulation and restful sleep each day.
As we move forward, we will normalize our residents’ routine by keeping a consistent daily activity as if there is no disruption and let them visit with their families using the technologies available to us like Skype and FaceTime. The recovery phase for us will be simply a return to normal daily routines. We look forward to this phase but for now, we are doing all that we can to ensure that our residents are well taken care of. This has involved difficult steps like limiting family visits, but these decisions are all in the spirit of doing our part to ensure the safety of our staff and residents.
If you have any questions about the virus and our community, please don’t hesitate to call us at (760) 756-4386 or leave a message on our website.