Assisted living facilities, nursing homes taking steps to protect residents

Local nursing homes and assisted living facilities are following national guidelines to protect higher-risk residents against the threat of COVID-19, including restricting visitors unless there is an emergency.

With the spread of COVID-19, the community is taking precautions to protect those most at risk — the elderly.

Minimizing exposure is especially important for people who are 65 or older or who have an underlying health condition like heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or cancer, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. People in those groups have a higher risk of developing severe disease if they do get COVID-19, and the safest thing for them during an outbreak will be to stay home as much as possible and minimize close contact with other people.

Local nursing homes and assisted living facilities are following state and national guidelines to help make sure their residents and staff stay safe.

“We’re on lockdown,” Tiffany Sinclair, business office director at Peach Tree Place, said. “You have to be screened before you come in, and the only ones that are allowed in are hospice aides, prescription people... we’re not accepting any visitors unless it is in case of an emergency.”

The restriction of visitors is one of several guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease and Prevention to nursing homes.

At Weatherford Healthcare Center, hospice and medical personnel entering the facility are required to sign in, use hand sanitizer, have their temperature taken and wear a nametag with that day’s date as part of the screening process.

“Realistically, we’re always prepared. Everybody tries to follow the rules and regulations and we’re working very diligently,” Director of Admissions and Marketing Tracie Cunningham said. “It’s been hard on families and it’s been hard on residents, but we’re contacting the families to let them know [about visitation] and they’ve been understanding.”

Other guidelines issued by the CDC include the implementation of active screening of residents and healthcare providers for fever and respiratory systems as well as the cancellation of all group activities and communal dining.

“Residents cannot leave their rooms, so we go from room to room each day, talking with them and checking on them,” Cunningham said. “Since these residents are feeling isolated from their loved ones, they could always use cards, notes of encouragement, pictures that kids have colored, anything to help the residents feel better.”

As of Monday, there were a total of 77 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Texas. Dallas County reported five new cases of COVID-19 coronavirus on Monday, bringing the total to 19 countywide. Parker County has yet to confirm any cases, Emergency Management Coordinator Sean Hughes said.

Common symptoms of the virus include coughing, fever and shortness of breath. TDHS recommends the following steps to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

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