COVID-19 Q&A: Visitors matter to long-term care residents

DeeAndra Sandgren says Good Samaritan Society allows safe visits

To know that The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society deeply cares about its residents, all you have to do is have a conversation DeeAndra Sandgren.

In a recent interview, the rehab and skilled nurse consultant covered a number of topics, including the personal care each and every resident receives.

In that interview, she fought back tears when asked just how close the providers are with the residents.

“In a recent survey taken by our employees, more than 90% say they believe that above all else, it is their own responsibility to prevent the spread of the virus,” she said. “They aren’t putting the responsibility on the local, state or federal government, or their local health system. They’re making personal sacrifices to keep residents safe.

“You can know that if your loved one is at a Good Samaritan Society location, they’re in a safe place where people care for them, where they’re truly being cared for as one of God’s children,” Sandgren said through tears.

Social well-being

DeeAndra says part of the overall care residents receive has been an emphasis on social and mental well-being. This has become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic, since there have been restrictions for in-person visits.

“It’s not uncommon to experience a health decline when social needs are not being met. Our social lives are an important part of who we are. It’s one way we keep our minds and bodies sharp. It’s how we feel connected to others,” Sandgren said.

Related: Good Samaritan iPads ‘bring life’ to residents nationwide

Because of this, staff have stepped up their efforts in caring for emotional and social well-being.

“The relationship between a nursing home resident and the employees is unique. These are long-term relationships built over years and years. They really get to know each other.

“Staff treat the residents like family, and in a time when families can’t visit as often, staff are fulfilling this role.”

Sandgren explains that staff have organized virtual activities including: bingo, trivia, devotions, bible studies, and exercises.

“There is no shortage of creativity from our staff and these families,” said Sandgren.

Visitor policies vary

In March, the Good Samaritan Society closed its doors to visitors for the safety of residents. However, in June, many states began to ease visitation restrictions. Each state put in place its own reopening plans, giving nursing homes a path forward to allow outdoor and indoor visits.

More: Good Samaritan Society takes phased approach to reopening

Because each plan varied by state, Good Samaritan Society locations were in varying stages of allowing visitors.

Sandgren says recently, new guidelines were released to establish visitation policies for all states and locations. These new guidelines will serve as good news for many families, according to Sandgren.

“In summary, the new guidance allows outdoor visitation with the use of masks and social distancing. It also allows for indoor visitation, unless a county has a high county COVID-19 positivity rate. High is 10% or more.”

She adds that this guidance “is very fresh, so our locations are still preparing to make adjustments and working on communicating any changes with families, residents, and employees.”

Safety measures

In-person visits will be allowed, but before any visitor can enter, they’ll have to undergo a set of screenings.

“All visitors are screened for symptoms and potential exposure before their visit. They’ll also have their temperature taken. We also require all visitors to wear a mask at all times during their visit,” said Sandgren.

Physical distancing is also required at each visit.

“We know this is difficult. But, it’s important to maintain 6 feet of separation between you and the individual you’re visiting. Avoid physical contact like hugs and hand squeezes,” Sandgren added.

Because each location’s visitor policy varies, Sandgren says visitors will need to call ahead to each location and ask what the policy is.

Find a location: Good Samaritan Society communities near you

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Posted In Behavioral Health, Coronavirus, Expert Q&A, Rehabilitation & Therapy, Rural Health, Senior Services

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