Facilities for area seniors in need of supplies, patience

As we move forward with the changes that COVID-19 has brought to our lives, we must accept that many will remain a constant for some time to come. Social distancing, rigorous cleaning measures and wearing masks will be part of our reality for the foreseeable future. We will likely continue to experience ongoing shortages as well as purchasing limits on various items in high demand, such as cleaning supplies, face masks and paper products. These items are needed by all and have a direct impact on how we will emerge from the last few months of home quarantine.

For many businesses, having these items is critical for their day-to-day operations and acquiring them remains a concern for area in-home care providers and senior living facilities. The restrictions in place for these providers are lengthy and specific with distinct guidelines for various types of facilities, including assisted living, nursing homes and direct care facilities. You can review the outlines of current restrictions by facility type on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, cdc.gov/coronavirus.

Although the regimens vary depending on the facility type, all are required to take steps such as providing staff face masks at all times, implementing cleaning protocols in shared spaces, and staggering meal times to accommodate social distancing. With these procedures in place, the need for supplies remains high, as the supply chain has not completely caught up in items such as medical-grade face masks (non-N95) and EPA-registered sanitation wipes.

Further, the CDC is maintaining stricter guidelines for group activities, allowing residents to leave the facility only for medical appointments and enforcing the restriction of visitors until further notice. As the news discusses how businesses are reopening and people are emerging from their homes, families across the country have been surprised and upset that the restrictions on senior living facilities are still in place keeping them from visiting their loved ones.

“The Centers for Disease Control, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Kansas Department of Health & Environment and the Douglas County Health Department all recommend we do not ease restrictions at this time and we will continue to follow their guidance,” the staff at Brandon Woods Alvamar said.

Megan Poindexter, executive director of the Senior Resource Center for Douglas County, recently coordinated a Zoom meeting with contacts from various local senior facilities and in-home care providers. Participants met to discuss the issues they are facing and share how they are transitioning within the current state of the pandemic.

“The Senior Resource Center is dedicated to supporting all our community partners who care for seniors,” Poindexter said. “I learned about the challenges our partners are experiencing. They shared what they expect in the future and how our community can help. It is important to understand how the residential facilities, especially nursing homes, are in ‘all hands on deck’ mode to give the best possible care to their residents. The entire staff are doing anything that can be done to help facilitate communication under these difficult circumstances while prioritizing the safety of their residents.”

David Mercier, of Baldwin Healthcare & Rehab Center in Baldwin City, said, “I have been in this profession for 38 years and in that time this is the most challenging thing our profession has faced. With the way this virus is transmitted, these precautions will be in place for some time. Although many restrictions are being loosened, we are doing all we can to protect residents. The virus has not been found in our facilities, but is present in the community and can be transmitted to our residents from outside sources. This is why the restriction on visitors is vital in our efforts.”

Although we are all ready to have more outside contact with friends and loved ones, we must keep in mind what is truly important — the health and well-being of all seniors living in community senior facilities.

Since health experts advise waiting a little longer before our seniors return to having personal contact from family, we must continue to stay connected. We have to find more creative ways to see our loved ones, and we appreciate all those working to keep them safe. Consider sending a fun card once a week or a care package with your loved one’s favorite things to remind them that you care and are thinking of them.

In the meantime, continue practicing good hand hygiene, wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Your actions now will help keep our community and our seniors safe every day.

— Michelle Meier is the director of marketing with the Senior Resource Center for Douglas County.

How to show support

Show your support for seniors who remain isolated by:

• Sending greeting cards to be delivered by staff to residents or those aging in place, even if you don’t have a specific resident in mind.

• Creating activity or craft packs, which include a gallon Ziploc bag containing the components of a craft or activity.

• Donating cloth masks. Remember that staff must wear masks while at work and also during their off-time. Once restrictions have lifted, any visitors will be required to wear protective gear, including masks.

• Share a used smartphone, tablet or similar device, as they can be used not just for communication, but also for game apps or to download books.

The Senior Resource Center will also distribute donated supplies to in-home providers and area senior facilities. Call 785-842-0543 for drop-off instructions. Donations may include:

• Cleaning wipes

• Disinfectant spray

• Facial tissue

• Face masks and gowns (both disposable and cloth)


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