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Senior care facilities on lockdown during COVID-19 pandemic

By the numbers

As of May 7

Number of COVID-19 cases in Nevada County: 41

Number in western county: 12

Number in eastern county: 29

Number of active cases: zero

Number of recoveries: 40

Number of deaths: 1

Learn more at http://www.theunion.com/coronavirus

Friday evenings at the Bret Harte Retirement Inn are usually reserved for a popular social event called Nip and Nibble.

Residents of the senior care facility enjoy hors d’oeuvres, a glass of wine and some live entertainment by a local performer.

But with the facility under lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the residents at Bret Harte are now the ones providing the entertainment.

“Normally we would have live entertainment every Friday night. We would have entertainers come in, but we’ve had to discontinue that. But, they have created their own show,” said Patricia Collins, owner of Bret Harte Retirement Inn. “Instead, every Friday night they do a show-and-tell or do some kind of in-house entertainment themselves. They will share a story about something they’ve done in the past or something their children or grandchildren have done.”

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This evening the theme is “travel stories.”

“It’s really brought them together as a community,” Collins said. “Whereas some of these people have been here for years but don’t know someone else’s name, only where they sit in the dining room, so it’s brought them together and they’re learning more about each other, and they’re really enjoying that.”

It’s a small sliver lining during an unprecedented time.

Bret Harte, along with the many other senior living facilities in the area, are charged with the care of a population with the highest risk for serious health complications due to COVID-19, and they are taking extraordinary steps to keep their residents safe during the pandemic.

Senior care facilities across the county are on lockdown, have ramped up their cleaning protocols, halted in-house visitation and have had to get creative when it comes to activities and entertainment in their effort to keep their residents happy and healthy.

“The biggest challenge is just keeping them in and keeping them safe,” said Collins. “We’ve been on lockdown, and have been on lockdown since the beginning of March. We went early, out of concern for the seniors.”

KEEPING COVID-19 OUT

Many senior care locations locked down during the early stages of the pandemic, adding enhanced cleaning and safety protocols. None contacted by The Union reported a resident diagnosed with COVID-19.

Nevada County had 41 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday. Forty have recovered, and one person has died.

“The health and safety of our Grass Valley residents and employees is our first priority. We’re thankful that as of May 4, no residents of Atria Grass Valley have tested positive for COVID-19,” Mike Gentry, senior vice president of care at Atria Senior Living, said in an email. “We continue to follow the recommended guidelines from Nevada County Public Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control to ensure the necessary steps are taken to protect the health of our residents and employees.”

To ensure the residents’ continued safety, facilities are being cautious when it comes to essential visitors to the facility as well as staff members.

“I don’t usually get involved in my staff’s home life, but I’m instructing my staff to be safe when they aren’t here working,” said Collins. “I’m just suggesting to everyone to continue to wear masks in public and keep up their social distancing.”

CONNECTING FROM A SAFE DISTANCE

Facilities have had to get resourceful in an effort to connect residents to their loved ones.

“The biggest challenge is the fact that we are not able to allow visitors to come into the facility,” said Diana Haines, administrator at Spring Hill Manor in Grass Valley. “We do make arrangements for residents to use Zoom or some other social media to talk directly with their loved ones. Some of the loved ones come to the windows and talk to them. And, of course, there’s the good old telephone. But some of the residents really miss seeing their families and friends.”

At Bret Harte, Collins said family members regularly come to the door and then call from their cell phones to chat so they can physically visit, even if it’s through a glass door.

“It’s just the way it is,” Collins said. “But, (the residents) have all done really well with it and the family members have been great.”

Loneliness is one of the biggest problems facing seniors during the pandemic, according to Theresa Haleen, who serves as the chairwoman of the Elderly Care Providers’ Coalition and is the director of community relations for Help at Home Senior Care.

“One thing I’ve really noticed is the seniors right now are super isolated and feeling really lonely,” she said. “There’s a big need for help for the seniors. Call some of the nonprofits and see how you can help, because the seniors are super lonely right now.”

Haleen estimated there are around 540 seniors currently residing in licensed assisted living facilities in Nevada County, and another 200 to 300 who receive in-home care at their personal residences.

FOR AS LONG AS IT TAKES

Facilities are preparing to be in lockdown for as long as it takes to ensure the safety of their residents.

“At this point we really don’t have a timeline,” said Haines. “We follow very closely the CDC and the Department of Public Health and county Health Department guidelines and suggestions. Whatever they put out, we follow that.”

As county and state shelter-in-place restrictions are eased for some businesses, many senior living facilities are keeping their lockdown protocols in place.

“There’s not a lot of discussion at this point of lowering those restrictions,” said Betsy Donovan, chief operating officer at the senior living facility Eskaton Village. “Senior living is probably going to be one of the last things that opens up or lifts visitation restrictions.”

Haines said caution is paramount in the coming weeks and months.

“Even as the rest of the community is opening up, we still have to be cautious because all it takes is one case for it to get into a facility like this, and then it goes like wildfire,” she said. “Our number one concern is our residents and their health, It would just take one, so we’re being very cautious.”

In late April the Sacramento Bee reported that Oakmont of Folsom Senior Living had an outbreak of COVID-19 in which 21 people — 16 residents and five staff members — were diagnosed.

Haleen said she’s been impressed by the way local senior care facilities and in-home caregivers have navigated the pandemic.

“I think they’ve done an awesome job,” Haleen said. “They’re all under lockdown. They’re sharing all the pictures of what they’re doing to keep their seniors active and involved, and finding ways for families to still communicate with them. This has been super hard on them, and I think they’ve just really stood out and are shining.”

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RELATED RESOURCES

http://www.TheUnion.com/coronavirus

http://www.MyNevadaCounty.com/coronavirus

Coronavirus Guidance for Businesses/Employers

Nevada County Relief Fund for Covid-19

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email wford@theunion.com or call 530-477-4232.


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