If you have a loved one in long-term care, you may be worried about the potential for a COVID-19 outbreak. While the Saskatchewan Health Authority has undertaken a number of measures to prevent COVID-19 from entering care facilities, high community transmission means an elevated risk to all residents. What exactly happens during an outbreak in a long-term care home and how it will impact your loved one and you?
What happens when an outbreak is declared?
When a COVID-19 outbreak is declared in a long-term care home, nurses employed with the Saskatchewan Health Authority in Public Health, Infection Prevention and Control, and Occupational Health and Safety begin to investigate the cases and carry out contact tracing (the process of contacting individuals who have come in close contact with someone who has tested positive). In addition, the following measures are put in place to rapidly identify new cases and halt the spread:
How your loved one is affected
Some residents who contract COVID-19 will have very serious symptoms requiring medical intervention, but the biggest impact on those in care settings can still be isolation. Residents who are COVID-19 positive, have symptoms, are presumed positive or are
close contacts to a positive case, are required to isolate in their rooms, even for meals. When residents are isolated, they are placed on droplet/contact plus precautions, which means that staff put on personal protective equipment (e.g., masks, gowns, gloves) before entering their rooms.
It can be a particularly difficult time for residents who are required to remain in their rooms with limited visitation from family and friends. Long-term care home staff is committed to both meeting residents’ care needs and engaging them in activities, like painting and knitting, that can be done in their rooms. Staff members are also committed to helping residents maintain contact with their loved ones, and family members are encouraged to continue visiting with their loved ones virtually.
What’s being done to support residents
Long-term care homes are coming up with creative ways to provide support and socialization to residents during an outbreak; for example, events like music and reminiscing that allow for six feet of space between residents are supported. Homes have also been using technology such as Facetime to help residents connect with their loved ones. In addition, therapy and recreation staff may offer independent activities to residents who wish to participate.
How outbreaks are being prevented
Measures to prevent outbreaks include:
What you can do to help prevent outbreaks in long-term care homes
There are many things you can do to help protect your loved ones in long-term care:
The home can address any questions or concerns you may have and assist you with the process if you are unsure how it works. You can also keep connected with your loved ones via phone and by sending cards and letters.
What else you can do during an outbreak
As a family member you are an integral part of the community of the home where your loved one resides. This is why it is so important for you to:
As a family member, you are vitally important to the health and well-being of your loved one and to the community environment within the home. All long-term care homes are committed to returning to family presence when it is safe to do so following an outbreak. Your understanding, patience and cooperation to keep residents, families and staff safe during the pandemic are greatly appreciated.
Homes have also been using technology to help residents connect with their loved ones.