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Brighter Days ahead

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Nursing homes re-open for some safe visits

HARTINGTON — Nursing home residents are reuniting with their families as many facilities in the area are now open for visitation again.

But it’s far from business as usual with COVID-19 infection control policies and regulations still in place.

“They were excited to see their families and it was great to see that interaction again,” said Nancy Mosel, provisional administrator at Parkview Haven, Coleridge.

The facility is scheduling visits to allow for less individuals in the building at a time. Visitors are also required to be masked for the duration of the visits and maintain social distancing.

At Hillcrest Care Center, Laurel, visitation is also open, but they also want a heads up if anyone plans to stop by to visit a resident. Visitors are also required to undergo a health screening at the entrance which includes a temperature check, said Administrator Ruth Sands-Jerke.

Similar visitation policies are in effect at Colonial Manor in Randolph and Arbor Care Center in Hartington.

“It’s loosened up quite a bit,” Sands-Jerke said. “And it’ll loosen up more as time goes by and the positivity and illness rates continue to fall.”

Not everyone is fully vaccinated either, Mosel said. As vaccination rates increase, regulations may loosen as well, she said.

Nursing homes are already heavily regulated, and this past year saw massive changes.

With a goal to prevent COVID-19 from spreading, nursing home residents were socially isolated from one another and their families. Staff were required to undergo COVID testing regularly (ranging from once a week to once a month) and wear personal protective equipment of gowns, goggles, and gloves to perform routine cares.

‘We’ve had to learn a lot, adapt a lot and compromise a lot,” Sands-Jerke said. “It’s made a tremendous difference in what we do. We have to follow exactly what the regulations say.”

To lessen the impact of isolation, families were encouraged to call more frequently and visit their loved one’s windows. Efforts were made to use technology to connect family and friends through video chat.

“It wasn’t a total no contact, but it wasn’t necessarily satisfying for anyone. I’ll be the first to admit that. But it was better than nothing,” Sands-Jerke said. “That sort of broke my heart that family couldn’t come in and see their loved ones.”

Compassionate care visits were allowed for specific situations in which a resident was struggling physically or mentally.

While Sands-Jerke said she saw first-hand the devastating effects of residents who got sick with COVID — she also saw the devastating effects of COVID prevention protocols.

She said overall, the residents at Hillcrest had increases in depression, increases in failure to thrive, and increases in the loss of mobility - all due to isolation and being confined to their rooms as part of COVID regulations.

‘We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t love what we do. We are compassionate and caring and we may not like what’s happening but nevertheless it’s what we have to do,” Sands-Jerke said.

Sands-Jerke and other nursing home administrators said they were thankful for the support of residents’ families and the community with many comments of appreciation for all they were doing to protect the residents.

Homemade goodies and catered lunches were dropped off for staff at nearly every facility.

At Parkview Haven, door hangers, sun catchers and decorating the residents’ windows were all special activities by the community to show support.

In Randolph, the Lied Public Library organized a snow play day where children made snowmen outside of residents’ windows. In Hartington, the community brought pets to the windows to share with residents.

“I want to thank everyone for their good thoughts, prayers and kind words,” Sands-Jerke said. “We’ll continue to do what we need to do, and we are looking forward to a much better year.”


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