By Carolyn Berk - September 8, 2020
Those responsible for the safety of residents and employees in senior care facilities have been working double duty in 2020. In addition to the unprecedented devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic and adapting to a flurry of new guidance from The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), they also needed to swiftly evolve to address a deluge of new health and safety concerns, as well as overall effective communication in long-term care (LTC).
One of the most pressing obligations is also one of the most difficult to enact: ensuring that no one enters the senior care facility who could expose residents, employees and others to illness. But how can nursing homes regularly conduct and record health screenings of the many employees, visitors and various other people who come through each day? And how can they establish effective communication in their long-term care LTC facility?
Asked to do the impossible, many LTC care facilities have essentially had to build the car as they drive down a very bumpy road. Problems have ranged everywhere from confusion surrounding reopening and struggles to meet new procedurals norms. In California, several nursing homes were informed that state inspectors had been sent to their facilities without first being tested themselves.
Going forward, what effective communication methods do LTC facilities need to ensure the health and safety of residents and employees? If recent official guidance is any indication, those in senior care will need to double down on monitoring the health of people living in and entering nursing homes.
When it comes to slowly resuming normal operations, a lot hinges on whether a LTC facility can screen or test everyone who will be entering the building.
To meet the requirements for reopening, senior care facilities need to have effective emergency response mechanisms and processes in place. Communication is especially important in light of guidance set by the CMS addressing the coronavirus outbreak.
This guidance states that everyone who comes into your facility must be screened for illness. This doesn't just include employees prior to their shift. It also applies to everyone else who will be physically present, such as visitors, contractors, temporary workers, or whoever else could potentially expose residents to disease.
Some nursing homes are slowly and cautiously reopening to visitors while strictly adhering to this guidance. But for many facilities, a safe reopening will require numerous adjustments to screen visitors for illness in an efficient and safe manner without interrupting normal operations or maintaining an ever-growing record of daily health check responses.
The coronavirus outbreak was such a sudden and dramatic event that many facilities had no choice but to innovate as they went along. With so many new demands for safety requirements in such a short amount of time, LTC facilities really had no other choice.
As you think about who you need to rise to these challenges, be sure to focus on the following initiatives. These strategies will help your facility build a sustainable response to the current ongoing public health crisis, in addition to other health concerns like minimizing the impact of the approaching unpredictable flu season.
To ensure that no one enters who can expose residents to illness, LTC facilities need to take initiative with health screenings. If a nursing home can send an automated digital health check in advance, then people can self-report if they are experiencing symptoms.
Knowing who can and can’t enter the building plays an important role in staffing as well. If a nursing home has advance notice that an employee is unable to come in for their shift because they’re experiencing symptoms, then managers can spot and address staffing shortages quickly before they arise.
When it comes to keeping a record of employees’ responses to health checks, you need a reliable system and a well-maintained reporting process. However, some organizations are still using pen and paper to keep track. Over time, maintaining this expanding record can be a cumbersome task that senior care professionals don’t have time for.
Investing in a digital option can remove this hurdle entirely by maintaining a continually updated database of responses. If screenings remain a fixture for the foreseeable future, this capability will only become more valuable to administrators.
To ensure that employees, guests, and anyone else in your building are informed, you need to establish reliable and effective channels of communication.
The administrator of a Connecticut nursing home explained it best when she described how her facility managed to have all 93 of its residents test negative in May. According to Angela Perry of the Vernon Manor, the most important thing is “communication, communication, communication. I think that is the biggest key for anybody to be successful. I strongly believe that if there’s one link that’s broken, the entire chain will be broken.”
Critical communication and collaboration is needed now more than ever. Senior care facilities must have a way to inform an audience that can include residents, employees, temporary staff members and visitors. However, with an audience this broad, it’s important to implement a communication solution that is simple and easy for everyone to understand and use. Flexibility and scalability is also crucial for LTC facilities, especially during uncertain times when safety priorities can change in an instant.
Learn which crucial safety issues you must address, and the capabilities you need to ensure the safety of everyone in your LTC facility.
Carolyn Berk is a Content Marketing Specialist at Rave Mobile Safety. She writes about public safety and technology for professionals in state and local government.
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