While there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Parkland, several agencies are doing their best to protect seniors, those most vulnerable to the virus.
Country Meadows Nursing and Rehab is taking extra precautions to make sure residents are protected from coronavirus. Vendors and visitors are asked to check-in and provide paperwork and information about traveling outside the U.S. before they enter the facility.
Farmington Presbyterian Manor postponed its chicken and dumpling dinner and silent auction it had planned for next week to err on the side of caution and to protect its residents. The Center for Disease Control guidelines recommend postponing these kinds of events.
Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America Senior Vice President of Health and Wellness Jeanne Gerstenkorn said they are postponing all event and fundraisers until the end of April as a precaution and prevention method.
“Given everything is kind of in the middle of the storm, so to speak right now, since I don’t think anyone knows how long it’s going to last or what’s next,” Gerstenkorn said.
She said the facilities are also limiting any activities that are coming in from the community, as well as what community activities residents go out to. They are also discouraging families from taking residents to outside events with large gatherings.
Visitors coming in are also being limited.
“Outside visitors are being discouraged at this point in time,” Gerstenkorn said. “Just because of the potential for bringing in germs into the community.”
Of course, good hand washing, coughing and sneezing into your arm, and not coming into the community with any symptoms of illness is always encouraged this time of year, which is also flu season.
“We’ve always encouraged those,” Gerstenkorn added, “but we are encouraging them even stronger at this point.”
Other senior living facilities, such as Ashbrook Assisted Living in Farmington and NHC in Desloge, have posted announcements on their web and Facebook pages letting the families of the residents know that they are following CDC guidelines to reduce the possibility of the virus entering any of their facilities.
“Our communities are following the recommendations of the CDC on using basic contact precautions to prevent the spread, which includes wearing gowns and gloves when interacting with residents who are sick, as we always do,” Clay Crosson, the president of Ashbrook’s parent company, said in a statement on its site. “We also are staying up-to-date with the CDC recommendations as they are updated. In addition, our company is in close contact with the local and state health departments and are following their guidance.”
The facilities are also asking family not to visit if they have any flu-like symptoms or have traveled to any of the high-risk areas.
“If possible, we ask you to use other ways to connect with your loved ones such as phone calls, Facetime, text, emails or Facebook,” the NHC announcement said.
For the most part, it’s business as usual so far at the Park Hills Senior Center.
“For us, there has not been a lot of changes because we’re regulated by the health department,” Director Holly Buxton said. “My girls are extremely clean. So it’s basically just the same thing: keeping things clean and sanitized.”
Really the only change is more hand sanitizer.
“We always have some of the little sanitizers just around in different places,” Buxton said. “But now we have a big bottle on the desk where, when my volunteers come in to deliver the meals, they can sanitize their hands.”
They have also ordered a wall dispenser for sanitizer that they can put outside the restrooms.
“That’s something we need to do anyway,” Buxton added.
The center, which has 63 volunteers, makes an average of 300 meals a day Monday through Friday. About 250 of those are delivered to senior residents in Park Hills, Leadington, Desloge and Leadwood. They are also senior apartments attached to the center.
Buxton says she has been stressing common sense.
“We’ve had talks with them to use common sense," Buxton said. “We don’t want anyone to panic. We have enough of that as it is. … Everyone should be washing their hands throughout the day anyway, not just during an outbreak.”
Cher Robinson, director of the Bonne Terre Senior/Nutrition Center, echoed the call for common sense and said, like every day, they are encouraging everyone to wash their hands, cover their nose and mouth and to be cautious with hugs and handshakes. And they, too, have hand sanitizer available throughout the center.
“We wipe down all the common areas and door knobs and all the chair handles and things like that every single day,” Robinson said. “So none of that’s changed. That’s just a common sense thing.”
The Bonne Terre center did post a notice on the door asking the community to help it try to stop the possible spreading of any contagious virus.
“To make sure they do not come into the building if they aren’t feeling well at all or if they’ve been around someone who has possibly been exposed,” Robinson said.
Robinson added that they are as prepared as they know how to be at this point.
“We do have some things in place that we’re looking for in the future,” Robinson said. “Depending on what happens with this, making arrangements for emergency situations if we’re not able to have the center open, or for deliveries, to have people that are available if our volunteers become ill.”
The Farmington OAKS Senior Center said the virus is a hot topic and it has information sheets available for everyone, but no programs or events have been postponed or cancelled at this time.
Many churches have also discouraged hand shakes and hugs and have hand sanitizers available.
Nikki Overfelt is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We’ve had talks with them to use common sense. We don’t want anyone to panic. We have enough of that as it is. … Everyone should be washing their hands throughout the day anyway, not just during an outbreak." Park Hills Senior Center Director Holly Buxton