How the Society keeps seniors active while keeping them safe

Good Samaritan CMO outlines plans including medical supplies, communications

Dr. Greg Johnson, CMO of the Good Samaritan Society

Social distancing is especially challenging when you’ve been encouraging older adults to be social.

Greg Johnson, M.D., chief medical officer of The Evangelical Good Samaritan Society, says it wasn’t easy to decide to restrict residents from their loved ones and limit internal activities and events. Last week, Sanford Health with the Good Samaritan Society set restrictions at nursing homes and long-term care facilities for coronavirus (COVID-19) prevention.

The Good Samaritan Society has a lot of resources devoted to making sure the older generations stay busy with their loved ones and maintain engagement within its locations in 24 states, said Dr. Johnson, a board-certified geriatrician.

Balancing needs during outbreak

“We’re trying to make that balance right now where we still provide for the spiritual and emotional well-being of our loved ones by getting them socialization but obeying (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines that social distancing is part of the treatment,” Dr. Johnson said.

Related: COVID-19 FAQs: What is social distancing?

Some of the ways Dr. Johnson and other Good Samaritan Society leaders encourage safe communication is through letters, FaceTime or telephone calls and social media. As COVID-19 spreads and leaders learn more, restrictions are meant to keep the most vulnerable population safe.

Senior citizens are among the highest risk

Young and healthy people might be carriers of the virus without showing signs of illness for days, according to the CDC. They could pass it on to people who are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19: older adults, and people with serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes.

“I think as hard as it is for families to hear we don’t want you to visit, that’s the spirit of it. We don’t want to put you in that spot where you’re transmitting it because even though you feel fine, you’re at risk of putting your loved one or someone else in the facility in danger,” Dr. Johnson said.

Good Samaritan Society leaders meet every morning to monitor reports, positive COVID-19 tests, and suspected presence of the virus not just within states with its facilities but surrounding states, as well. He’s not sure when the visitation policy will be lifted.

“The stance we’re taking right now is a cautious one,” Dr. Johnson said.

Nationwide stock of medical supplies

As one of the largest long-term care providers in the United States, the Society has supplies such as masks and other personal protective equipment it can move from one part of the country to another, Dr. Johnson said. The organization also has encouraged smart usage of those supplies.

“We have good evidence of when we need to use a mask and gloves and when we don’t,” he said. “While wearing one all of the time may in some ways seem like the safest, it isn’t if we run out in the end.”

Keeping the faith

Dr. Johnson thanked the faith-based community of Society leaders for their guidance and putting the care of their residents and safety of their employees above anything else.

“I think not only is there that human watch over all of this from a central command but as part of a faith-based community, there’s a higher watch and there’s nothing surprising about the unfolding of these events to God,” Dr. Johnson said. “For our loved ones, for our residents, there are leaders who are prayerful, sitting at tables being guided by our Father.”

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Posted In Coronavirus, Expert Q&A, Senior Services, Wellness

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