14 Ways to Avoid Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Community Senior Living
March 3, 2020
Senior living communities are acutely aware of the dangers and difficulties of outbreaks. Every independent living, assisted living or skilled nursing facility has protocols in place to prevent the community-wide spread of contagions. The Coronavirus or COVID-19, to give it its technical name, presents unique challenges – in particular within the realm of senior living, as it affects an especially vulnerable population.
We’ve compiled some useful suggestions to help prevent the coronavirus from infecting your community but also to help it from spreading within your facility if it does happen to make an appearance.
Avoid initial infection:
1. Communicate with your families and guests
Make sure you talk to all of your guests before they come in to visit their loved ones. Have they visited one of the coronavirus hotspots (China, Korea, Iran and Italy at the time of writing)? Have they been exposed to anyone who has visited one of these places? If they have, for the safety of all your residents, ask them not to visit at this time. You can use technology to help them stay connected with their family without visiting in person.
Tech tip: Use a family messaging platform to keep families up to date with all your precautions and coronavirus plans. Communicate with them by email and sms for quick and timely updates.
2. Use signage to warn families and visitors
Use signage at the entrance of your community to ensure that every guest walking in is fully aware of the precautions you’re taking – and the steps they need to take. Remind them that they shouldn’t be visiting if they’ve been to a hotspot or have been in contact with someone who might have been exposed.
Tech tip: Take advantage of a digital signage system specifically built for senior living to quickly update messaging and have it broadcasted to multiple access points and entranceways at once.
3. Require hand sanitization and mask use
Provide hand sanitizers right near the front doors and require every guest walking into the building to stop for 30 seconds to use the sanitizer. Masks are typically only useful to stop someone from spreading the virus – so make the most of them for outside visitors.
Tech tip: Use your community TV channel or lobby information TV to display warnings and best practice videos for anyone walking into your community. Here’s an example:
Avoid virus spread:
Senior living communities are unfortunately prone to the quick spread of contagious diseases and viruses. The World Health Organization recommends the following as ways to avoid the spread of the coronavirus:
4. Wash hands frequently
Ensure all residents, staff, family and caregivers thoroughly and regularly clean hands with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Promote the use of paper towels or air dryers to dry hands so as not to spread germs via towels.
Tech tip: Include a proper handwashing hygiene tutorial on your facility’s TV channel, such as this one:
5. Maintain social distancing
Maintain a distance of at least 3 feet between your residents and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. This avoids small droplets spraying on fellow residents when someone sneezes or coughs.
6. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
Did you know that, according to an NIH study, an average person touches their face 23 times an hour? Our hands are primary transmitters of viruses and once contaminated, they can quickly transfer any contagion to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus easily enters the body.
7. Practice respiratory hygiene
Try to ensure that everyone covers their nose with a tissue or the inside of an elbow when coughing or sneezing. This helps avoid the spread of contaminated mucus or droplets.
Tech tip: Place a video like this: on your Community TV Channel to remind everyone of best practices.
8. Seek early medical advice if any residents or staff develop a fever, cough or difficulty breathing
Screen residents and staff daily and make sure any indication of fever, cough or difficulty breathing is assessed urgently to determine if medical isolation or other care is required.
9. Reduce activities to small groups
Consider reducing the size of your groups for activities, exercise and meals. This allows you to maintain greater space between each resident and staff member and ensure lower exposure if there are any infections.
Tech tip: Use an in-house TV channel to broadcast activities directly into all your resident’s rooms. They won’t need to go to communal areas to enjoy a choir, magic show or inspirational lecture – they can enjoy it directly from their rooms.
If an outbreak does unfortunately occur, isolation is the first crucial step. Ensure that those who are unwell are separated from those who are well. Make sure you follow the instructions of your medical advisors for any isolation protocols.
11. Stay informed and follow the advice given by your healthcare provider
COVID-19 is a rapidly changing challenge. Global, national and local health advice can change by the day. Make sure to stay in regular contact with your medical providers to get constant updates as to current protocols and best practices.
Tech tip: Try a dedicated communication platform to make sure your residents, staff and families are always kept up-to-date.
Some things you can do to prepare your community include:
12. Train staff properly
Make sure your staff are well trained before anything impacts your community. The most effective way to ensure your staff can deal with any challenges or outbreaks is to make sure they know exactly what to do in the event of an incident. You don’t want to be scrambling if something does end up happening.
Tech tip: A senior living focused learning management system can help to ensure that all of your staff are trained correctly with appropriate tracking and reports.
13. Update your policies and procedures
Make sure your policies and procedures are updated to reflect the new risk of COVID-19 and the newly released medical recommendations.
Tech tip: An online policy and procedure manual platform can help you share updates instantly with all of your staff.
14. Stock up on essentials
Use the time before any outbreak to stock up on supplies to ensure you are able to effectively limit an outbreak or the spread of disease. Preparing in advance also means you can still look after your residents if there is, in fact, an outbreak.
Stay informed and stay safe!
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