For elderly patients at local assisted living facilities, having a visitor can really brighten their day.
But these residents are among those most at risk with the COVID-19 pandemic underway. And new state regulations issued this week are keeping family members at bay.
At Adams House in Myrtle Creek, staff members are doing their best to keep up residents’ spirits.
Executive Director Tammy Schmall said residents have been given new word search books they can do in their rooms.
“We’ve been doing extra snacks, making them popcorn and taking it to their rooms as a treat,” Schmall said.
Last week, members of the local Jehovah’s Witnesses church found a clever workaround for their weekly Bible meeting. They visited Adams House residents by showing up outside their windows.
“They were waving through the window and talking through the window,” Schmall said.
One family, unable to visit a loved one on her birthday, left flowers with staff.
On Monday, Gov. Kate Brown issued new rules restricting assisted living and nursing home visitors to health care professionals, necessary employees and loved ones visiting a patient at the end of life. Even visitors who fit into those categories must be screened for respiratory symptoms, fevers and other risk factors.
Many facilities are taking additional measures.
At Rose Haven Nursing Center in Roseburg, Nursing Home Administrator September Fray said in an email they’re taking daily temperature readings for employees, residents and visitors and canceling group outings, group activities and even group dining. It’s a “frustrating and worrisome time,” Fray said, but they’re doing everything they can to keep residents safe.
The new state rules issued this week apply to nursing homes, where residents receive medical care from the staff, and assisted living facilities, where residents receive staff assistance with personal care, like bathing.
The regulations don’t apply to independent living facility residents, who don’t need that extra level of care.
Some local facilities, such as Forest Glen in Canyonville and Riverview Terrace in Roseburg, offer a mix of different types of senior living. They have mostly unlicensed independent living residences, which don’t fall under the new rules, and a few beds for assisted living residents, where visitors must be restricted.
Riverview Terrace Regional Director of Operations Judy Jackson in Portland said the mandates for the assisted living portions of their facilities have been changing moment by moment, while they don’t apply to the independent living residents.
Jackson said their residents are doing a great job with the new restrictions.
“What we see is there’s actually a mission or a sense of gratefulness for everything that’s being done. They’re safer than they would be if they were out in the community. And they’re also feeling kind of a sense of being productive and contributing,” Jackson said.
Riverview Terrace Office Manager Patty Koch said they were putting together an activities cart with puzzle books, crafts and decks of cards.
They’re also adapting with activities like music and stretching in the hallway — with plenty of social distancing.
Riverview is also encouraging family members and community members to donate iPads and iPhones. And staff members are teaching residents how to use technology to see and interact with their family members through apps like FaceTime.
“We’re just rolling along and doing everything that’s required of us, and wishing we had more hand sanitizer. We’re going through that like water,” Koch said.
Forest Glen Supervisor Louise Cousins said they now have someone sitting by the front door to screen visitors. Visitors have to sign in, use hand sanitizer and answer questions before being allowed to enter. If independent living residents leave, they have to follow the same procedures when they return.
The residents have some options for entertainment without leaving the building or receiving visitors. There’s a library, a puzzle room and a TV room, where everybody likes to hang out, Cousins said.
Cousins said the new rules haven’t changed the number of visitors much, even for independent residents. The reason is a sad one.
“Truthfully, there are only a couple of families that come to visit anyway. That’s facts. So we’ve only had to tell a couple of family members that they can’t come in,” she said.
At first, residents were miffed by the new rules, but that’s changing, Cousins said.
“When I first told them the bus wasn’t going to Roseburg and we were on kind of like a semi-lockdown, I was getting a lot of feedback from it. ... But I think they’re finally starting to understand that this is a little bit more serious than they thought,” she said.
Jackson said she’s very appreciative of everything the governor and state agencies have been doing to set rules that keep seniors safe.
The important thing, all these facilities told The News-Review, is the precautions they’re taking have been working. None of the residents have become ill, and that’s the goal.