Residents at GranVida feel “untouchable” after receiving second vaccine dose
The atmosphere is optimistic at GranVida Senior Living Facility and residents are resting easier now that the majority of the facility’s staff and residents have received their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
GranVida, located in Carpinteria, houses a vulnerable population within its walls, with 42 residents between the ages of 58 and 96 living in the assisted care and memory care wings of the facility. After months of small-scale outbreaks in the facility and enforced COVID-19 precautions, residents are feeling “untouchable” now that they’ve received the vaccine, Marketing Director Claudette Geller told the News-Press.
Donna Harris, a resident at GranVida, told the News-Press that she was “very happy” when she heard the facility was receiving doses of the Pfizer vaccine for distribution. Ms. Harris, along with a majority of the other residents, did not experience any serious side effects after receiving both doses of the vaccine, aside from some soreness at the injection site.
“(I was) nervous before I got (the vaccine) because I’m not too fond of shots, but I was looking forward to it,” Ms. Harris said.
While residents are anxious to return to some sense of normalcy soon, GranVida plans to require masks and social distancing until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updates restrictions for those who receive the vaccine. For resident Barbara Crowley, this will be no problem, as she plans to continue to follow precautions until it’s safe.
“When there are so many people here like this, we could all have (COVID-19) in no time,” Ms. Crowley told the News-Press. “So it’s so important that we just do the little things of trying to not be too close to people and keeping our hands washed and little things like that.”
Soon after the start of the pandemic, GranVida began testing its residents and staff on a weekly basis to track the spread of the virus. Instead of bringing residents together in large groups for meals or activities, the staff at GranVida began caring for residents one at a time and allowing them to meet in small groups throughout the week while wearing masks and social distancing.
Early on, GranVida also installed a COVID Wing, where residents could be taken to isolate and be treated in-house if they tested positive for the virus. According to Ms. Claudette, GranVida’s adoption of a COVID Wing to treat patients is unique and something she hasn’t seen at other facilities in the area.
During the course of the pandemic, if one person tested positive, all other residents would go into lockdown until the infected resident got a negative test result. By following this protocol, Ms. Claudette said outbreaks in the facility have remained small, and the facility currently has two residents isolated in the COVID Wing.
“(The wing) itself really protected the rest of our residents who were still healthy who were still negative,” Ms. Geller.
She later added, “We do have (outbreaks), but we do really implement the solution so we cannot spread (the virus) widely. We have two or three (cases), and then the next swab test that we have, it’s negative.”
Since the start of the pandemic, GranVida has had more than 15 cases of COVID-19 among its residents and staff, and two residents with underlying conditions died from complications of COVID-19. Both residents who died were in their 90s.
Both Ms. Geller and Life Enrichment Director Felipe Garcia form personal relationships with residents and their families, and when a resident dies, they always try to make it to the funeral. When Christina Perez, a 95-year-old resident of GranVida, died last month, both Ms. Geller and Mr. Garcia attended her funeral and offered comfort to her family.
Mr. Garcia interacted with Ms. Perez regularly, remembering how she used to wrap herself in a blanket that looked like a tortilla shell when she took wheelchair walks around the facility. When attending the funeral, Mr. Garcia said her family was very appreciative of the care she received at GranVida in her last chapter of life.
“You’d be surprised, so many of the family members that lose a loved one still send cards, send little chocolates and little gifts for employees,” Mr. Garcia said.
Keeping residents connected to their families is important for the mental well-being of residents in the care facility, Ms. Geller said, so during COVID-19, staff found creative ways to allow residents to see their loved ones.
One way was through the facility’s glass doors, where a resident would sit inside and their loved one would sit outside and the pair could talk over the phone while seeing each other through the glass. The facility also offers scheduled Zoom calls with residents’ families to keep them connected.
“How we take care of our residents here is like our own family,” Ms. Geller said.