Tim Knight, Executive Director of Health & Wellness Services
At Park Springs it is our mission and goal to “take care of people”. This includes taking the best care of our members, as well as our employees who are the ones who provide all of the necessary services to support the safety and well-being of our members.
In early March, with the ever-growing approach and concern of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Park Springs leadership team went into action planning on how we could continue to take the very best care of our members and our employees. The team identified that the biggest risk for our members was others coming and going from our buildings and this included the risk of employees leaving, going about their business in the “outside world” and returning, not knowing what they might be bring back with them into our communities.
The first step in our plan was to end all visitation within our long-term care, memory care and assisted living communities. This is always a very difficult decision to make because of the anxiety and fear associated with family members not being able to see their loved ones. The Guides (managers) within those communities started an immediate process of calling each member’s family daily to provide them with updates in an effort to alleviate that fear and anxiety. Soon those phone calls evolved into more meaningful video chats between members and families. This has been very successful in keeping those family connections alive and well. Our teams are very focused on maintaining the emotional wellbeing of the members living within our communities and have been very committed to continuing this contact.
The second step was to focus on limiting the “in and out” of anyone else in the communities. It was obvious that because of the pandemic in our country, our own employees were the “weakest link” in trying to control and prevent the spread of the virus in our community. The leadership team began talking with the team about the possibility of “sheltering in place” in each of our buildings. This involved determining the correct manpower and other resources needed within each building to meet the needs of members throughout the 24 hour period of time and over an extended period of time. Our initial goal was to provide inside coverage in each building 24 hours a day for a 2-4 week period of time. The success of this plan, of course, was totally dependent on the dedication and commitment by our team members, who would be asked to sacrifice their personal time with their own families to meet the goal. Within only a few days, team members made plans for their families and homes and stepped up to meet the challenge of keeping our members as safe.
On April 1, our assisted living community, memory care and long-term care communities self-quarantined with their individual, dedicated teams as they started the journey of “bunking in” with our members to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all. The assisted living building was “locked in” with no one in and no one out, the entrances to our long-term care and memory care were physically altered with zippered plastic doors with signage to prevent entry or exit to protect those living in the “cocoon” of safety and wellbeing.
This is obviously an abbreviated version of our story, as significant planning and coordinating went into the plan to house, feed and provide a good environment for all involved over this extended period of time. However, in an amazingly short period of time, the teams settled in and continued to provide, seamless, ongoing support to the households with a focus on promoting “normalcy” for those members living there. Key members of the leadership team also “stepped up” to shelter in place in order to provide ongoing, continuous oversight and leadership to the teams as they face these unusual and challenging times.
As of today, April 16, these teams have been living in place with the members in those communities and we have been successful in maintaining the wellness and safety of the members in those communities with no positive cases of the COVID-19 virus! We are uncertain of the length of time that this “shelter in place” will need to be in place to continue this success, but it is obvious that the Park Springs team members are very committed to the plan and to the mission of “taking care of people” and keeping their safety and wellbeing first in their minds and in their hearts. The Park Springs team is to be commended for their outstanding efforts and accomplishments.
I would love to hear more about how you accomplished this amazing feat, Tim Smith. Making it possible and inviting for so many of your employees to agree to shelter in place, because yes, those coming and going are the weakest link in constraining the virus. I’d love to hear from your employees about how they managed living apart from their families.
Residents of long-term-care homes suffer from the virus, yes. They also suffer from the isolation and lack of activity (and activities) that result from quarantine. I shudder to think what family members will find when we can see our loved ones again: decrease of cognitive functioning, increasing muscle weakness and loss of strength, etc. I hope we can develop safer alternatives to the extreme restrictions we’ve had in place, if/when another viral sweep comes along.
I applaud your team. They are very committed and dedicated to their elders . I wish every facility which takes care of elders would do this. This provides safety for everyone. Thank your staff for being so compassionate