Good Samaritan Society takes phased approach to reopening

Regional VP: Visitors are on hold until local reopening requirements are met

Two Sanford Health staff members sit in a living room facing a video camera.

Every decision The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society makes is done with the best interests of its residents in mind. Even if the decisions are hard.

After taking proactive measures against the coronavirus early, staff and residents are eager to open back up to visitors.

But, only when it’s safe.

In a Facebook Live interview July 21 with Sanford Health News, Good Samaritan Society Regional Vice President Heather Kzmarzick discussed important topics as the nationwide health care provider looks to ease visitor restrictions, and open back up.

Watch video: Facebook Live Q&A with Heather Kzmarzick

Senior living vs. assisted living

Kzmarzick says it’s important to understand what senior living means, and looks like, at Good Samaritan Society locations.

“It’s an umbrella term for our age-restricted communities that includes assisted living and various levels of senior housing with services, or independent living,” she said.

Meaning, there are many housing options available.

“Someone in senior living may be in their own twin home on one of our campuses, or in an apartment. Residents in senior living may opt in to have a variety of services such as housekeeping, meals, transportation to the grocery store or doctor’s office, fitness center, salon, and activities.”

Assisted living is a licensed setting where providers can offer a realm of lower level or non-skilled health care services, in addition to other convenience services. In non-assisted living settings, providers cannot offer health care or medical services. But they can offer an array of amenities “that make life a little bit easier,” according to Krzmarzick.

Safety precautions

Krzmarzick says the safety precautions and living policies in assisted living align closely with skilled nursing facilities.

“We’ve been universally masking and wearing eye protection. We’re restricting visitors and screening employees. We continuously monitor the health of residents. We test them if they develop COVID-19 symptoms, or if we need to test all residents,” she said.

She added that if the novel coronavirus is confirmed or even suspected in a resident, that resident is isolated.

Learn more: What the Good Samaritan Society is doing to keep people safe

“In the non-health care or senior housing settings, we are taking many of the same precautions,” she said. “Things like masking and screening employees before they start work, frequent cleaning and sanitizing, and limiting visitors.”

Reopening plans

Reopening is on the minds of everyone. Many residents haven’t seen family or loved ones in person for months. Reopening to visitors is the inevitable goal of the Good Samaritan Society, but only when it is safe to do so.

The senior care provider is taking a four-phase approach to reopening in each senior housing location. After 14 days of no cases or symptoms, the location will move to the next phase. If needed, they’ll revert to a previous phase.

“For assisted living, we have in some cases received reopening guidance from other states. This is the number one factor in our reopening plans,” she said. “Otherwise, we’re using the guidance we developed.”

Krzmarzick said another big factor is community spread. Each Good Samaritan Society location is able to see what direction cases are trending in their county.

Meanwhile, most Good Samaritan Society locations are open for moving in. Safety protocols are in place for movers, and new residents must test negative for COVID-19.

“I want people to know it’s safe here,” Krzmarzick said. “Safety is our top priority. Moving to a senior living community is always a big decision, but especially during uncertain times. You can have confidence in the measures we have in place. We’re here for you.”

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Posted In Coronavirus, Expert Q&A, Senior Services