What about residences with fewer than 20 residents? Let’s avoid crisis

Barbara Moser with Bonnie Sandler

Small residences are faced with different challenges in dealing with caring for the elderly during this pandemic. While large residences are able to isolate seniors in their own apartments or rooms, which are equipped with private bathrooms, and bring them their meals and services directly to the apartment, small residences are not always able to do this.

Many small residences have shared bathrooms, some semi-private rooms, and limited common space. Even escorting a resident to the bathroom will include walking the common hallways.

So what can be done in these types of residences to prevent the spread of the virus?

  • When workers enter the premise, they need to change from their street clothes to gowns or uniforms which are cleaned by your laundry service on a frequent basis.
  • The temperature of each worker should be taken before their shift.  They must immediately wash their hands thoroughly (singing happy birthday twice) upon entering and after each physical contact with a resident.
  • Workers should not wear gloves unless changed after each contact. This is because once they touch something and then someone, they could be spreading the virus.
  • Staff need to wear masks at all times, to prevent themselves from transmitting the virus and to avoid having the virus transmitted to them. Asymptomatic people can and do transmit the virus so it is imperative to protect not only the seniors but the healthcare workers and their families.
  • Workers must not be allowed to work in more than one residence. This has already been established but needs to be enforced. Owners and managers should augment the hours of part time workers so that they have a reliable source of income and have back- up workers lined up in case any of the regular staff fall ill. There are many people out there who are qualified and need work.
  • If it is not possible to provide meals in each room, than meal times should be held in sittings to avoid too many residents in the dining room at one time, ideally one person per table or for a large table one person at each end. One manager asked what to do about the cognitively impaired residents who will ask why others are eating without them. Our answer: Feed them first. Spread out the meal-time hours as needed.
  • Shared common areas should only have two or three people at a time in the room, or should not be used at all.
  • Keep in communication with families and limit or exclude all visitors from entering the home. Instead of bringing in recreational people, have music playing for residents and let them watch TV, in their rooms if possible. Rather than in-person visits organize FaceTime chats with family and friends.
  • While some of these “must do’s” may seem obvious, at this time of crisis we can’t take anything for granted. Too many people are not abiding by the rules of isolation. Our elderly living in residences are highly vulnerable. Let’s do our best at keeping them. And keeping them well. We need to avoid a crisis in our smaller homes caring for our vulnerable elderly.

And finally, who is supervising these homes at this critical time? Is the CIUSS visiting the homes armed with a list of “must do’s” and following up to make sure that they are enforced? It should visit and verify each small residence, immediately.

Bonnie Sandler is a housing consultant for seniors, and a retired social worker; Barbara Moser is the publisher of The Senior Times, and a retired CEGEP English teacher. 

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