Operators of elderly care facilities are taking preventative measures to ensure that senior citizens living under their care, are protected from the COVID-19 pandemic, as much as possible.
One step immediately taken was, limiting the number of relatives visiting the centres.
This daily’s team visited four all of the elderly homes on the island on Monday (March 23) and learned that the caretakers are deeply concerned about protecting their clients, each voicing the importance of going beyond the approach of safety and has strictly closed their doors to outsiders.
However, the majority of the proprietors are allowing relatives to stand outside the door and speak to their loved ones, and some have suggested that relatives make contact via telephone.
Implementing the new protocol was not taken lightly, as COVID-19 is a virus they all said, is an illness they intend to stay away from.
Owner of Home Away from Home and Home Away from Home Shelter, Mervie Knowles said, “Persons are now learning to respect your space and to have respect for when they come to the elderly home, because they know that they cannot come inside. At first it was rough, even rough for me to inform them because they feel like you are trying to keep them away from their loved ones. However, I try to let them understand the purpose and the reason why. So now, people are starting to respect it.
“We have the gate locked and with the gate being locked, we allow them to come by the gate and talk to the seniors from the gate … a foot away and talk to them or call them on the phone. Whatever they choose to do, but nobody is going inside. The only persons that is coming inside are the nurses and doctors,” she stated.
Knowles added the seniors are also enjoying the curfew (9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. the first time implemented, prior to the 24-hour curfew, which went into effect on Tuesday, March 24).
“I would say this is actually great. It gives you an opportunity, now, to deal with some of the things that you actually didn’t want to deal with and to get to know your clients and patients much better. It also gives us a sense of direction with the 9:00 p.m. lockdown. Now everyone can see what God is actually doing, to be truthful.
“We have never paid attention to many things in our life, because we are so busy doing other things, so we really never had the opportunity to pay attention. So, this is the time we can take this moment of silence and actually worship and be able to understand what God is really saying to us. Right now, my clients are enjoying this. As long as I have enough food in there for them to eat, they are fine and they are really enjoying this.”
However, Knowles expressed that she does have one concern. “I had a patient that told me his chest was hurting, and we wanted to call the Rand Memorial Hospital to find out what to do, but sometimes we call the number and can’t get through to the number they are actually giving us and we are concerned about that.
“But for now, everybody is fine. We have no coughing inside the place; no sneezing, thank God for that. So, everyone is good.”
Meanwhile, Knowles encouraged persons interested in making a donation to the home, cleaning products would be very useful at this time.
She noted that proper care is a 24-hour job at the Home and that the only change announced right now is the traffic of visitors.
Ocean View Retirement Village and Grand Bahama Home and Daycare for the Aged and Children Centre Proprietor, Agatha Thompson shared her views on the virus that continues to baffle health care professionals.
“As you know the Grand Bahama Home for the Aged is an intergenerational centre, so we have responsibility for 20 senior citizens as well as children in the preschool. But lucky, for us, our biggest challenge, really, has been the children because it is very difficult to tell them to cough into their elbows. They think it is a joke to just cough on their friends, so luckily the Ministry of Education took the bold initiative and they were proactive in closing schools early, so that alleviated our suffering,” Thompson said.
“We were really worried about the children, because most of them always have a cough or a cold. So, with the toys, blocks and books it was very difficult. But as for the Home for the Aged, we always operate on high alert when it comes to sanitizing and preventions. We don’t take anyone with any communicable diseases, but we are always mindful of the germs and viruses coming from different homes and on the buses. So, we are always handwashing, constantly, using gloves and using a mask is a norm at the Grand Bahama Home for the Aged.
“But our biggest challenge was visitors; therefore, we have been streamlining for weeks. Persons who have a history of recent travel, we refuse them entry. We do not allow them to visit at all,” she revealed.
Thompson noted that those persons were upset by the restriction, however, caregivers took the decision to protect their senior residents and staff.
Now, she added, all visits have ceased. “We only have caregivers, and we are monitoring the ones that are taking the bus from a distance. So, we sort of gave them time off and we are just dealing with a streamline staff, where we can control where they are coming from.
“So far everything is good. The relatives are upset that they can’t visit, but we have to really stand our grounds and we are following all the advisory from the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization for our safety,” Thompson added.
Proprietor of Raybertha’s Senior Citizen Centre Albertha Hudson expressed, “With the COVID-19 moving and the lockdown, everything has been fine with us.
“The curfew is no problem; I just had to change the timing of the staff’s shift and the clients here know we are doing our sanitizing. So, we are doing fine.
“Raybertha’s doesn’t have stray visitors, only the clients’ relative would come and stop by and if any group wants to visit, they would have to make prior arrangements. But all the groups know this is not the time for that kind of visitation.
“All of the seniors are happy go lucky, and nobody is afraid. But overall, I feel great about the lockdown and I think it will help. When people cease to congregate, they would not be able to pass it on to one another. So, social distancing and the lockdown is very helpful, health wise,” said Hudson.
Burrows Home for the Elderly has also ceased visitations.
Owner Irene Burrows has implemented a policy, where relatives are to remain outside in the yard to see their loved ones.
“Everybody is good, no symptoms, thank God. We are on total lockdown in here. I have some patients who are bedridden, and I want to protect them. Right now, I don’t have that much employees at work and my daughter-in-law has to sleep with me every night.
“When these people go out or go home, you don’t know what disease they contract. So, we are staying on lockdown, and nobody is allowed inside,” she stressed.
Burrows added the lockdown has made her feel much safer. She commended Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis for his decision. “I am happy the prime minister initiated this, because he is protecting us. I think he did the right thing.
“So far they only have four confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nassau and if we are not on lockdown, I believe, we would’ve had 24 more cases. But I am happy with it. It is hard on me to be able to get the stuff I need, but otherwise, we are doing good.”
Burrows concluded her Home is in a need of assistance and if persons can donate some vegetables and fruits to her centre, that would be greatly appreciated.
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