As the holiday season approaches, long-term care facilities will be facing the question of how to balance the desire for residents to see their families while maintaining the safety of their residents and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the population of nursing homes are acutely at risk for infection, this season presents a variety of challenges.
This time of year is known for large gatherings of family members and friends, which the CDC cautions against, encouraging people to celebrate virtually or limit events to your household to reduce exposure and spread. Unfortunately, senior residents at long-term facilities are considered outside of their immediate family’s household, leaving facilities to address the risks of families who want to take their loved ones home for the holidays.
Recently, some facilities have opened to essential caregivers and other visitors, which has required them to manage the process very carefully to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to vulnerable residents. As the pandemic has worn on, pandemic fatigue combined with a longing for connection has placed pressure on facilities to allow access to family members. OmniSure has helped our clients work diligently to provide access to caregivers and visitors while maintaining safety. However, when residents enter a new environment, safety measures are no longer in the hands of the facilities.
Therefore, we are recommending all of our facilities think ahead about the holiday season. Consider encouraging residents to make virtual celebrations with their families and supporting residents with technology assistance and needs they may have. Additionally, incorporating holiday programming within the facility with necessary precautions could help residents stay in a festive mood without risking outside exposure. If facilities decide to let residents leave with family, make a plan for how to manage the risk of COVID-19 spread prior to their departure and upon their return.
Additionally, consider having a similar discussion with employees who might be seeing extended family for the holidays. While prohibiting employees from seeing extended family is not an option for long term care facilities, providing education about the risk and making suggestions around how to navigate the holidays could be a vital step to protecting both residents and employees this season.
If your facility is struggling to make a plan or needs advice, OmniSure is here to help you. Our risk management consultants can assist in developing solutions tailored to the specific needs of your residents and employees. Current OmniSure members can reach out to our helpline to get started and others can contact us to see how we can help today.