I hope you had a joyful and safe Independence Day. It seems we’re all making adjustments to our traditional celebrations. At Deutsches Altenheim, mandated restrictions on group activities meant our customary holiday festivities were bypassed in favor of individualized activities. We’re looking forward to the time when we can enjoy celebrations together.
Speaking of looking forward, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts transitioned to Phase 3 of its reopening plan this week! For senior living communities, out of necessity and caution, restrictions remain but are easing. The Dept. of Public Health (DPH) released new guidelines that impact every program and service on our campus. Here’s a broad overview:
Baseline and surveillance testing of all staff will commence immediately. All staff scheduled to work between July 1 and 19, and who were not previously COVID-19 positive will be tested for baseline results. Thereafter, if there are no positive test results, 30% of scheduled staff will be tested every two weeks. If there are positive test result(s), weekly testing of all COVID-19 test-negative residents and staff will commence until there are no new positive cases for 14 days.
Our adult day program has received extensive guidelines designed to protect the health and safety of program participants and staff. Our team is carefully reviewing the regulations and will submit a plan for safe re-opening once we can ensure adherence to the requirements.
Senior Place, staffed by nurses, nursing technicians and a social worker, has become a vital component in the lives of the approx. 50 adults who attend. The program offers family respite from caregiving challenges. Perhaps more importantly, though, it provides participants with opportunities for social engagement and wellness monitoring.
Diane Dunning, the program’s director, has been in frequent contact with program participants and/or their family members since the onset of COVID-19 and the program’s temporary closure. She has noted the significant impact the social isolation has had on many of those in the program. For seniors in particular, social isolation negatively impacts cognitive abilities and physical health. Many are looking forward to returning to Senior Place to spend time with their friends and the staff of Senior Place. Frankly, we can’t wait to see them again too as soon as we are able to open safely.
For our assisted living residence, the DPH guidelines make allowances for changes to a few facets of daily living. Communal dining and outdoor group activity have been approved to resume with restrictions and social distancing. Ensuring a six-foot distance, particularly in the dining room poses logistical challenges. Our team is reviewing our capabilities of implementing these changes in the near future to ensure compliance and resident and staff safety.
Perhaps the most exciting news of all, in-house salon services may resume! Naturally, adherence to social distancing, hygiene protocols, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection will be required.
New social visit regulations allow residents to welcome visitors to their apartment, provided the space is large enough for at least six feet of distance between visitor(s) and resident and windows can be opened for ventilation. The visit must be scheduled in advance and the number of times a resident receives visitors each day may be restricted. Visits in indoor common spaces continues to be prohibited. We will continue to offer outdoor, socially distant visits as well.
Restricted outdoor family visits have been overall successful for the past five weeks. The new visitation guidelines for Edelweiss Village do not apply to German Centre. We understand the limitations of these visits and we ask for families’ continued patience.
As you may note, and not without merit, senior living communities are under a very watchful eye of local and federal agencies. Deutsches Altenheim takes the safety and well-being of our seniors and staff very seriously. To that end, the above plan revisions affecting both Senior Place and Edelweiss Village are pending. Our team is making a thorough and careful review of our capabilities, space and staffing and will submit plans to the appropriate regulatory agencies for approval. Stay tuned for updates on this.
Stay safe and be well,
Michael B. Lincoln
Chief Executive Officer
Download the Update: July 10 Update