Long-term Care Facilities Face Challenges with COVID-19

  • 05/15/2020
  • RL Intern

By Jordan Darling, Editorial Intern

Karen Punches used to visit her mom and aunt two to three times a week. They would go on walks or go out to lunch, or just spend quality time together at Mom and Dad’s House Cottage, a long-term care facility in Lakewood.

Punches’ mother Barbara has advanced Alzheimer’s and has been a member of the community in Lakewood for the past four years.

Due to COVID-19 and the new guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rather than going on their habitual outings, Punches now sits outside of the facility on the other side of a glass door while she talks to her aunt Marilyn on the phone.

They tried to do this with her mother but Punches said that her mom kept trying to open the glass door to come outside and did not understand why she could not.

“Mom is a pretty happy camper. No need to do something that makes her unhappy or stressed,” Punches said.

Punches’ contact with her mom is limited to the times she is able to FaceTime with her with the help of caretakers within the facility. She said that being on the phone is hard for her mom with the progression of her Alzheimer’s, but being able to see her daughter’s face helps Barbara with recognition.

Punches’ aunt is in the same facility but does not suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia and is more aware of what is going on and, according to Punches, is having a harder time with social isolation.

“My aunt is having a harder time being cooped up,” Punches said. “She is aware of what is happening and she watches the news and knows what is going on [it’s] more stressful and disruptive [for her] life and routine.”

Families throughout the United States are experiencing similar stories. The CDC has limited contact in long-term care facilities to protect the residents and limit the spread of COVID-19.

Many families are looking for loopholes to spend time with their loved ones without putting them at risk.

The CDC recorded that eight out of 10 deaths from the coronavirus in the United States were adults 65 and older.

Older adults and those with underlying health risks are the most vulnerable to the virus, and with 400,000 Californians reported to be in licensed long-term health care facilities according to the California Association of Health Facilities, the fight to keep residents safe is challenging.

“We never thought we were going to face a challenge like the one we are facing,” said Ivonne Meader, owner and manager of Mom and Dad’s House  Cottage based in Long Beach. “We have a different battle than doctors and nurses, our battle is to make sure our residents are safe.”

Meader works with patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Her staff’s battle is more complicated because of the circumstances and limitations of their residents.

“To explain to someone who doesn’t remember what happened 10 minutes ago that ‘your son can’t visit you,’ or ‘you have to sit six feet apart from Mr. Smith,’ [is difficult] and they don’t understand why the staff is wearing masks and all this gear. [We] repeat it [continuously],” Meader said.

Under the CDC guidelines, long-term care has to restrict visitors, check residents and caretakers for symptoms and restrict activities for residents in facilities.

Meader and her staff regularly check their residents and themselves for symptoms by monitoring their temperature.

Facilities are also suffering from a shortage of protective gear including gloves, masks and protective gowns.

Meader and her staff have been using face shields that were donated by a local who made them on their 3-D printer, they wear ponchos in place of hospital gowns and they have had to reuse face masks.

“[There is] a lack of personal protective equipment and we are struggling to get masks,” Meader said. “We are reusing masks, gowns, and rain ponchos.”

The shortage of supplies is being felt by the entire medical community as they are struggling to find equipment, even just antibacterial soap. Meader requests that anyone that can donate to facilities does.

You can contact Mom and Dad’s House Cottage through their website https://momanddadshouse.org/contact.

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