Thousands of older adults living in long-term care facilities, along with staff working in these locations, have been infected with COVID-19. Further, thousands have died, and these numbers are escalating every day.
Now, months into the pandemic, we are beginning to see a trend emerge throughout the United States. It now appears that one-third to as many as one-half of all COVID deaths in each state will occur in long-term care facilities. While some of these deaths will be among workers, the overwhelming majority will be among the residents living in these locations.
This makes the highest-risk population in the country the elderly, especially those living in retirement and eldercare facilities. And because we are an aging population, unless a vaccine is developed soon or new medical advances are introduced that help all of us survive this disease, we can expect more senior people—those in retirement centers and those still living independently—to succumb to the disease.
It also means that these facilities must grapple with a “new normal,” which may change the ways eldercare locations operate now and for years to come. Working within the confines of this new normal may be difficult. For instance, there are social and emotional concerns, such as family members who want to visit elderly family members in face-to-face settings as they have in the past. This may no longer be possible if we are to ensure that the health of these elders, their family’s health or that of staff members is not jeopardized.
How this situation will evolve is somewhat difficult to say right now. However, what we do know is that steps must be taken and quickly if we are to slow the spread of this disease, especially in long-term care locations.
Among the steps TAL Global is now discussing with long term care clients are the following:
No, they do not replace in-person, face-to-face interactions, but video chats can come close. Families can see each other “live” as they share stories and express love and concern for one another.
Create a “Visiting Center.”
We believe it will be healthier for everyone if an eldercare location were to create a visiting center on its campus. This center would have two separate entrances, one for residents and the other for their families. Residents and family members will be separated by sealed glass, and for complete privacy, partitions will separate one group of friends and family from another.
Security of all types is growing in importance now among all organizations, and it certainly will continue to grow in a post-COVID world. In a long-term care residence, state-of-the-art infrastructure security is especially important that we know who is entering and leaving the facility. Cameras, communication systems, ID and access control systems will all be necessary in eldercare locations.
The wearing of masks is crucial. We may not realize this, but masks show respect for each other. Each person is doing their part to keep someone else healthy. However, for staff, we must take protective gear a step further. Staff members must wear gloves, and in some cases in a long-term care facility, goggles, gowns, and even shoe coverings may be needed. Further, staff must know how to remove and dispose of these items properly. During the Ebola epidemic, many health care workers became infected with the disease because they did not remove protective gear correctly.
Cleaning and Sanitation
Cleaning and sanitation protocols are already coming under much greater scrutiny in all facilities but, more specifically, long-term care locations. What we are finding is that many housekeepers have not been properly trained on how to use cleaning solutions and disinfectants. For instance, the importance of adhering to “dwell” time, necessary to allow the disinfectant to work effectively, or the importance of cleaning surfaces first and then disinfecting. This two-step process is a crucial “best practice” when cleaning for health and to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Protecting the health of elders and staff in long-term care facilities has become a high priority for TAL Global. As with so many things about COVID, we all are dealing with issues that were not concerns just a few months ago.
However, our clients are turning to us for help in preventing the spread of the coronavirus infection and we want them to know they can count on us, just as they have in the past when other risks and threats materialized. If you have concerns about the security of your facility, talk to us.
As always, we value your feedback which helps us shape our perspective on recent events, security, and the services we offer.
Chief Executive Officer