Senior facilities take precautions to prevent spread of COVID-19
As fears emerge during the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease, The Springs Living Founder and CEO Fee Stubblefield reminds people of the four Cs — calm, confidence, compliance and communication — to protect senior living residents, employees and their families.
"That's our goal: to protect all of them," Stubblefield said.
The senior communities, which consist of independent, assisted and memory care living options, have buckled down and taken immediate precautions and measures to prevent the spread of the virus after the first Oregon case was announced Feb. 28 in a Lake Oswego School District employee who lives in Washington County.
The Springs Living has six facilities in the Portland metro area — including two in Lake Oswego's backyard — and more than 19 in Oregon and Montana.
According to the Oregon Health Authority website, Gov. Kate Brown issued a policy to limit exposure of COVID-19 at long-term care facilities. Though The Springs is not a nursing home, there is still a large elderly population and staff are following the guidelines set forth to limit visitation and exposure to the disease.
COVID-19 is the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. It causes respiratory ailments, fever and related problems that sometimes can be severe. People most at risk are the elderly and those with existing health problems. As of Wednesday, 15 presumptive cases had been found in Oregon.
Stubblefield said the senior living facilities have a 24/7 task force that has been constantly monitoring residents to identify any symptoms out of the norm. Staff are also tracking recommendations from the Oregon Health Authority, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Health Care Association to ensure compliance with official guidance.
"It's our highest priority: the health and welfare of our residents," Stubblefield said
One of the things the The Springs did right away was screen staff and implement more paid time off for any staff who are symptomatic or have family members who are.
Stubblefield said one of the priorities as far as keeping residents safe was limiting their exposure to the general population.
Following Oregon Health Authority guidelines, non-essential visitors — like handymen, personal services that aren't required, friends and family — are not allowed, though there are exceptions for friends and family for reasons like end-of-life visits.
It is unknown when the restrictions are going to be lifted but residents are being assisted to virtually connect with family and friends via FaceTime or similar avenues. Residents are also allowed to leave the facilities but then have to be screened upon return.
Essential visitors like food delivery, health care workers and clergy are also screened.
Staff have recently slowed or canceled outside activities and have limited gatherings and canceled large group activities at the facilities.
Common spaces are frequently sanitized, along with vehicles that transport people to places like the doctors.
"The next resident we transport can feel confident we have taken the obvious steps to make sure they're safe," Stubblefield said, adding that the communities all have "adequate" cleaning supplies and inventory is constantly being monitored.
In the dining areas, The Springs has eliminated all salad bars and has stopped presetting tables.
If there is an acceleration in exposure to the virus at one of The Springs communities, Stubblefield said "it's all hands on deck."
"I just think that this is certainly a threat to seniors and a threat to the general community," said Stubblefield, adding that there's been a great sense of community, cooperation and support among family and The Springs employees.
Mary's Woods Vice President of Marketing and Communications Cheri Mussotto-Conyers said the senior living community is also following similar protocols and Oregon Health Authority guidelines as far as limiting visitation and requiring screening for those who want to enter the community.
Mary's Woods has also canceled any classes or events that include outside teachers and vendors through April 12, though Mussotto-Conyers said that date is fluid.
For those guests who wish to take a tour of the campus, Mussotto-Conyers said staff will have the opportunity to take people on a virtual tour.
Residents will also have access to exercise, meditation and entertainment classes and more via their TVs, cellphones and computers through their resident portals.
For Mary's Woods, communication is key.
Aside from signage posted throughout the community, Mary's Woods has coordinated a Coronavirus Communication Team to update folks with changes and additional information, as well as to answer questions. Their website also has a link with information about how the senior living community is responding to the outbreak.
Lake Oswego's Adult Community Center has also made an effort to inform residents of the virus and ways to prevent the spread, like washing hands frequently for 20 seconds with warm water and soap.
"Our primary objectives at this time are to provide accurate information by referring citizens to the CDC, Oregon Health Authority and Clackamas County Health Department, be as diligent as possible with prevention by continuing our cleaning and disinfection schedule, and continuing our services. Last week we posted additional signs around the building and counter cards with the CDC recommendations for prevention of the coronavirus," Ann Adrian, LOACC manager, said in an email to the Review. "We are staying connected to our participants to see how they are doing. It is a time when people are justifiably concerned and all our staff are doing their best to reassure and support our citizens."
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