A weekly trip to CVS has been halted. In-house entertainment cancelled or postponed. And family and friends hoping to visit their loved ones who are staying at local nursing homes are being asked to limit their visits.
These are just some of the precautionary measures being taken by senior living facilities in the Santa Barbara area in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Public health officials have noted that older adults are at a higher risk of getting very sick due to COVID-19 and although there have not been any positive cases in Santa Barbara County, local nursing homes have issued recommendations to their residents to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus.
“We’re doing our best to be proactive and not reactive,” said Joan Schuermann, RN and executive director at Wood Glen Hall, which currently houses 63 residents – none of whom have been tested for COVID-19. “We have a big tube of hand sanitizer at the front desk and we’re asking visitors who come in, or any of our residents when they enter, to sanitize.”
Some of the recommendations issued by Wood Glen Hall, the city’s oldest retirement community that has been serving seniors for 62 years, fall in line with those issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tactics such as washing your hands with soap and warm water or avoiding touching your eyes, mouth and nose, have been passed along to residents. They are also advising that members of the facility should stay inside as much as possible, not bring in outside meals and not attend doctor’s appointments that aren’t considered necessary.
The facility has also halted its weekly trips to CVS, where residents would travel together to the nearby pharmacy to pick up groceries and other items.
“I feel like that’s not a good place for them to go,” Ms. Schuermann told the News-Press. “If you think about it, a pharmacy is really somewhere that a sick person would go.”
With the shopping trips on hold, the facility’s Activity Director, Holly Walling, has been tasked with purchasing items online for the residents, Ms. Schuermann said.
People who have been sick in the past few weeks are being asked not to come to the facility, as well as those who have recently traveled by plane.
“We don’t have any illness here and we don’t want it,” Ms. Schuermann said.
Wood Glen also hosts a group of train enthusiasts who have been convening at the Foothill Road living facility twice a month for the past 35 years, but that has also been shut down for now. The facility has also had to cancel an open house scheduled for next month, as well as other functions.
“We’re just kind of shutting down everybody that we possibly can at this time,” Ms. Schuermann said.
Pacifica Senior Living Santa Barbara has enacted its company and corporate policy in suggesting that family members reschedule any site visits if they are feeling under the weather. Residents are being reminded of various hygiene measures they can take, while caregivers – including some who work for other agencies – are being advised to limit physical contact and wash their hands more than usual, said Miriam Santiago, business office manager.
The facility houses a total of 12 residents, including some who suffer from memory illnesses. There are no current COVID-19 cases, though the facility has prepared to implement the use of personal protective equipment – such as protective gowns, masks and gloves – for those who become sick.
Residents have not been tested, though the facility is exploring a new testing kit through Luminus Diagnostics and the facility may start sending out test samples as early as next week, Ms. Santiago said.
The facility has an activity calendar filled with all sorts of family oriented activities and events, some of which have already been cancelled or will be limited moving forward. Officials are also carefully monitoring family member access to residents and are limiting time spent away from the facility.
“Really anything that has to do with being off campus,” Ms. Santiago said, adding that a conference call was scheduled for today to talk about the next steps.
Covenant Living at the Samarkand near Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital has also taken measures to protect the health and safety of its residents, staff and visitors.
Covenant Living activated its local emergency preparedness teams at all of its communities, along with the Central Office Emergency Response Task Force, to manage the various resources, communication and responses to a potential coronavirus impact.
Terri Cunliffe, president and CEO of Covenant Living, posted a video to the facility’s website earlier this week and said that each executive director has contacted residents to outline the initial steps taken to prevent the impact of the virus. The facility is requesting visitors not visit if they have exhibited certain flu-like symptoms and is working with national suppliers to ensure employees have adequate supplies.
“If you aren’t feeling well – coughing or sneezing – stay inside your apartment and notify your physician and the community nursing staff so we can help you access the proper treatment and home-delivered meals. Home-delivered meals will be available to any resident at no charge during this period of coronavirus prevention. We are asking all employees who are not feeling well to stay home,” Ms. Cunliffe said, adding that some large group activities may be cancelled for the next few weeks.
“We understand this creates inconvenience and disappointment, but we ask for your patience and understanding as we work together to better ensure the safety for all of our residents and employees,” she said.
The facility has suspended all “non-essential” business travel to and from its communities and eliminated all conference attendance through March 31. Meetings that require travel will be conducted through video conference or rescheduled and officials will revisit the travel suspension and conference attendance policy later this month to determine if they need to be extended. All marketing events have also been cancelled through mid-April.
Although the facility has not been directly impacted by the COVID-19 virus, it has still felt the impacts.
“We, like everyone else, are indirectly impacted by the safeguards we are putting into place to maintain safe and healthy communities,” she said. “Our promise to you is that we will stay in communication with updates about our communities and plans as necessary.
“Personal responsibility is the key to containment and we must lovingly hold each other accountable to uphold the infection-control practices outlined to minimize the risk of the virus impacting our staff and residents. We are committed to our common purpose – to create joy and peace of mind to residents, employees and their families, by creating a better way of life without the coronavirus.”