COVID-19 has created difficult situations for those in senior living apartments and nursing homes. As the requirements change, it’s important to know what to do to keep everyone safe, including the residents of the senior living apartments/nursing homes as well as the staff.  COVID-19 affects people of all ages and genders, but seniors (age 65 and older are at high risk).

What You Should Know About COVID-19

It’s important to understand COVID-19, how it spreads and what you can do to protect yourself and those you care for in senior living apartments and nursing homes.

  • No one is immune to COVID-19; it is a new virus
  • COVID-19 is highly contagious from person to person and object to person
  • People that don’t have symptoms can still carry the virus
  • COVID-19 is a serious illness that can cause death
  • The most common symptoms are a high fever, breathing issues, cough, chills, headache, sore throat, muscle soreness, and loss of taste or smell
  • Anyone that presents symptoms must be isolated for at least 10 days from the day of the first symptom plus at least another 3 days after symptoms subside
  • Anyone with trouble breathing, sudden confusion, chest pain, or blue lips should seek immediate medical attention
  • COVID-19 spreads from the droplets of coughs or sneezes
  • Touching an infected person or infected surface

Protecting the Residents and Staff at Senior Living Apartments and Nursing Homes

Understanding how to protect both your staff and residents is crucial to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the health and wellness of everyone.

Hygiene Issues

  • Ensure that everyone washes their hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Hand washing should be done before and after eating, after using the bathroom, and after coughing or sneezing. If soap and water aren’t available a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol may be used.
  • Cover all coughs and sneezes with a tissue or elbow and immediately wash or sanitize hands and the area
  • Avoid sharing of utensils, cups, and other common objects

In order to encourage proper hygiene, you must have:

  • Adequate handwashing stations throughout the facility stocked with soap and towels
  • Touchless hand sanitizer stations in areas where sinks aren’t feasible
  • Plenty of tissues and waste bins throughout the facility
  • Hang proper signage that encourages good hand washing and hygiene practices

Social Distancing

Social distancing must be observed whenever possible, which means keeping at least a 6-foot distance from one another and never exchanging handshakes or hugs.

In order to make social distancing possible, senior living apartments and nursing homes should focus on the tips below.

Common Areas

Common areas shouldn’t allow congregating. Remove as many chairs as possible and any chairs that do remain must be at least six feet apart. There should be adequate areas for hand washing or sanitizing and easy access to tissues in these areas too. Common areas should be left for extreme situations, such as a waiting area, but not an area for socializing. If at all possible, stagger any chairs so that there isn’t a direct line of contact should someone cough or sneeze.

Group Activities

Try eliminating all group activities. Instead, encourage individual activity that eliminates any close contact. If there are group activities, you must ensure proper social distancing, which means at least six feet between each resident. Group activities that allow for social distancing without the sharing of any items may be acceptable as long as you can keep everyone distanced appropriately without issue. 

Meals

Meal times should be as staggered as possible, limiting the number of people in the room at once. If possible, meals should be fed in the rooms or outside to allow for proper social distancing. If residents do eat together, keep the same groups eating together throughout this time, so as to avoid extra exposure to others. In other words, don’t switch residents among groups. 

Also, take care to only have one group in the common area at one time. After one group leaves, ensure proper disinfection occurs before the next group comes in. If at all possible, use disposable plates, silverware and cups to reduce the risk of spreading germs. 

Make sure there is no sharing of utensils, plates, drinks, or food. All food should be served individually rather than buffet or family-style. If possible, food should be pre-packaged and opened by the person eating it. Any staff member that assists residents with eating should wear disposable gloves and change them before helping another person. 

Rooms

If residents must share a room, make sure there is at least a 6-foot distance between beds. Keep as much distance between the beads as possible to avoid the risk of spreading germs.

Consider situating the beds as follows:

  • Side-to-side: place beds head to toe and at least 6-feet apart
  • End-to-end: place beds toe-to-toe and at least 6-feet apart
  • Beds that can’t be six feet apart or even those that can should have a partition between the beds to reduce the spreading of germs 
  • All beds should be situated head-to-toe

Screening and Isolating Residents 

If at all possible, screen residents as often as possible (daily if capable). This includes an assessment of their respiratory system and checking for a fever. Any temperature of 100.4 or higher is considered a fever. Anyone with symptoms must be immediately isolated.

Residents with symptoms should be presumed to have COVID-19 with or without testing. These individuals should immediately be moved to a separate area designated for sick individuals. If a separate building, part of the building, or even an area can’t be designated, all efforts should be taken to partition the area off with screens or other partitions to keep the unaffected safe.

Sick individuals should have a designated bathroom that unaffected individuals don’t use. Sick individuals should also eat meals completely separate from the unaffected residents. If there is shared space, proper disinfection methods must be taken before switching among groups.

If sick individuals must pass through an area where unaffected residents are, proper precautions must take place including wearing a surgical mask and moving through the area as swiftly as possible. Limited contact with employees must be followed and any employee that must have contact to care for an affected individual must have proper PPE.

Any residents that are high risk, including those age 65 and older or those with diabetes or heart disease should be isolated even without symptoms. This is in an effort to prevent them from getting the disease. Separate rooms, partitions, and social distancing of beds in an area only for those that aren’t symptomatic but are high risk should be considered. 

Length of Isolation

All residents must be isolated for at least 14 days from the first symptom. Staff members must keep track of the symptoms by logging them. Residents must stay isolated for an additional 3 days after all symptoms end. 

Any affected residents in a high-risk group, with trouble breathing, sudden confusion, chest pain, or blue lips should call 911. 

Screening and Isolating Staff

Staff members should self-monitor their symptoms and report any symptoms they experience. Any staff members with symptoms of COVID-19 must self-isolate themselves at home for at least 14 days from the first symptom plus 3 days after symptoms end.  Any staff with severe symptoms, difficulty breathing, chest pain, or confusion should seek immediate medical attention. 

Any staff that’s been exposed to an affected resident must self-isolate for 14 days to watch for symptoms. If there is a shortage of staff members, exposed employees that are non-symptomatic may continue working but must wear a surgical mask. They must also continually self-monitor for symptoms at least twice a day and follow the isolation rules at the first sign of symptoms. 

Quarantining Exposed Residents

To the best of your ability, trace the exposure of any resident after someone comes down with COVID-19. Exposure typically means ‘close exposure closer than 6 feet’ for more than 10 minutes, but any exposure should be considered.

Anyone with exposure should be isolated for 14 days. The virus takes between 2 and 14 days after exposure to show symptoms. If, after the 14 days, there are no symptoms, the resident may leave isolation.

If the resident does show symptoms and doesn’t need hospitalization, isolation should take place for 10 days from the date of the first symptom. He/she should also remain isolated for another 3 days after the symptoms end. 

Transportation

Try to limit transportation to necessary appointments only. This pertains to all residents, whether infected or not. If you must transport infected residents, ensure the following:

  • Don’t transport infected and non-infected residents together
  • Everyone in the vehicle should wear a mask
  • If you must transport more than one resident, ensure social distancing by staggering their positions in the vehicle
  • Keep the vehicle windows open
  • Keep tarps or disposable covers over the seats
  • Disinfect the vehicle once you are done transporting residents

Proper PPE 

Staff members need proper PPE when handling an infected individual. If residents don’t have COVID-19, PPE isn’t necessary, but in the event that you treat an infected individual, you need the following:

  • Surgical mask for both you and the resident
  • Disposable gloves when caring for an infected resident or cleaning an infected area
  • Plastic or washable gown (sanitize between uses)

Staff should also ensure proper handwashing throughout the time they help an infected individual. This includes after all of the following:

  • Cleaning an infected area
  • Helping an infected resident with any task including bathing, eating, dressing, etc.
  • After removing disposable gloves
  • After removing your mask

Proper Cleaning Methods

Routinely sanitizing and disinfecting areas is crucial to slow the spread of COVID-19. This includes cleaning areas where infected residents are as well as any other areas throughout the facility. Proper disinfection will eradicate the germs and slow the spread of the disease.

Cleaning must take place more frequently than before. Any time residents change areas, sanitize the area they were in before they return. Ensure constant cleaning of bathrooms, eating areas, and common areas and have extensive nighttime disinfection services too. 

Always use EPA-registered cleaning products and follow the manufacturer’s directions closely. If you use alcohol-based disinfectants, make sure the alcohol content is at least 70% for effectiveness. 

If you ever have any questions about cleaning or disinfecting the area, the professionals at Eco Bear would be happy to help you. We know the proper methods to eradicate the germs from your facility, helping to decrease the spread and keep the residents healthy.

Dealing With Emergency Situations

Make sure you have an emergency plan in place should someone need immediate attention. Your plan may include:

  • Proper gear for employees to wear when dealing with a COVID-19 patient
  • Information you need for 911 when calling for help
  • Know the signs of what to look for in an emergency, such as blue lips, chest pain, difficulty breathing or talking
  • Have a clear path to remove the patient that needs immediate medical attention that allows for the least amount of exposure to non-exposed residents

At Eco Bear, we care about your senior living apartments and nursing home facilities. We are here to answer any questions you may have and to help you disinfect your areas. We know how hard it can be to run facilities and handle all of these new disinfection needs. Our services are top-notch, affordable and a great way to alleviate the stress your staff feels.

Our COVID-19 hotline is available 24/7. Call us any time of day or night to get answers to your questions or to schedule an appointment. We offer free quotes and stand behind our work 100%. We look forward to helping you and your staff.