elderly woman being served a mealSince Coronavirus (COVID-19) spread to the United States, elderly adults have been at increased risk for exposure. Although COVID-19 can affect people of any age, older adults living with a chronic medical condition are the most vulnerable. As a result, having the outbreak spread through a skilled nursing facility or nursing home can be deadly.

In response to this disease, the CDC revised its prevention recommendations and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) updated their guidelines for nursing facilities.

Facilities currently have visitor restrictions in place and the CDC has recommended nursing facilities develop a checklist for:

  • Rapidly identifying any new residents.
  • Updating worker sick leave policies to factor in occupational health.
  • Getting all staff members on the same page about the warning signs.
  • Increasing supplies and staffing if needed.
  • How to manage visitors and consulting staff.

West Hartford Health & Rehabilitation Center is enforcing the restrictions put forth by the CDC and Connecticut Department of Public Health. We understand the difficulty of limited communication and have put alternatives in place to help residents “visit” with their loved ones, including phone calls, Skype, window visits and family conference calls.

Signs and Symptoms

COVID-19 symptoms remain relatively consistent across demographics, including fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.

To monitor patients for these symptoms, staff at nursing facilities have been advised to:

  • Ask residents if they feel feverish or check for signs of a respiratory infection.
  • Conduct regular patient assessments, including upon admission and at least daily
  • Follow all CDC Infection Prevention and Control principles to reduce the spread of infection, if a patient displays symptoms.
  • Notify the health department if one or more residents have a severe respiratory infection.

Halting the Spread

Based on CDC and CMS recommendations:

  • Nursing homes have significantly limited social interactions within facilities and with visitors. This includes restricted volunteers and non-essential healthcare personnel.
  • Actively screening all residents and healthcare personnel for respiratory symptoms and fever.
  • Even if a community doesn’t have any reported cases, facilities should act as if the virus is here.
  • Hand sanitizer needs to be placed in resident rooms and the facility’s common areas, and all sinks need to have an adequate supply of towels and soap.
  • Along with having trash cans near rooms so that residents can discard PPE, facilities should also have a sufficient supply of gowns, gloves and eye protection.
  • The facility is advised to implement an OSHA-compliant respiratory program for training employees and evaluating and testing everyone in the facility.
  • EPA-registered, hospital-grade disinfectants to clean all surfaces and equipment.

At facilities, workers play an active role in identifying the virus. As staff members can be carriers, homes are also recommended to:

  • Make sure all personnel understand sick leave policies; no one feeling ill should come to work.
  • Screen all employees at the start of their shifts; exposure to COVID-19 must be disclosed.
  • Practice appropriate hand hygiene and wear personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Educate all staff on how to stop the spread of infection.
  • If a healthcare worker displays any signs while on the job, they are advised to put on a facemask, inform their superior and leave the premises.
  • Have a plan in the event the home experiences a staffing shortage.

If a Resident Gets COVID-19

If a resident tests positive for COVID-19, the facility must contact their local or state health department. In addition:

West Hartford Health & Rehabilitation has been following all recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We appreciate how difficult these times are for our residents and families; we’ll get through this together. To learn more, contact us today.