Senior care centers have been a focal point of attention in 2020-21 due to the fact that the residential population we serve is much more vulnerable than the general population to have a serious case of COVID-19. As we approach spring however, we are so grateful for the dedication our staff has shown through this very long year. We are cautiously optimistic that we’re coming out of the worst of the pandemic and some levels of normalcy are in our future.
The New York Times recently reported that from late December to early February, new COVID-19 cases for senior care residents fell by more than 80 percent. As the first recipients of the vaccine, senior residential care centers such as the Edgewood Center are now some of the safest places to work and live. Like many facilities, we admitted very few residents in 2020. However, during the year of COVID-19, people aged and needed care, but many families postponed decisions due to the severe disruptions caused by the pandemic and worries about health and safety. With so many people staying home, there were more helping hands available to take care of mom and dad – a small silver lining.
In mid-February, we began accepting residents again. We’ve opened up common areas to our residents. We’re re-starting window visits and are expecting to welcome family members into designated areas for visits very soon. We are also hoping to invite our ancillary service providers such as dental care, podiatry workers and hairdressers to come back on site. While it may seem like a small thing, we are now able to accept flower deliveries again – this too brightens the days for our residents.
The Edgewood Center nearly made it through the worst of the pandemic. Our staff and residents had their first vaccines on January 4. However, despite a constant focus on safety and protocols over 10 months, we did have a resident and staff outbreak that eventually affected more than 40 people. We were deeply saddened when we lost two of our residents to the pandemic. Like many of our residents, who average 82.5 years of age, they had significant health concerns and were certainly more vulnerable than most. The vast majority of our residents and staff who tested positive had minimal symptoms, which could be due to the fact that many had that first vaccine – one of the many unknowns about COVID-19.
We’re very pleased and relieved that we have made it through quarantines with no additional positive tests and on January 26 most staff and residents had their second vaccine. Many senior care centers scheduled a third vaccination time for individuals who were unable to have the first vaccination for medical or other reasons. We had an additional 40 people get their second vaccination on February 17. As a result, 100% of our residents and 87% of our staff either had the vaccination or currently have immunity from COVID. This figure is well above the national average of 38% for long-term care employees as of mid-January, according to the CDC.
There was much jubilation on the 17th. It was a very cold day with a whipping wind, yet the team conducting the vaccinations were laughing and joking with residents. We’re so grateful to them for successfully and flawlessly executing this three-part vaccination plan. It was a slice of normalcy and a hopeful sign of things to come. We are grateful to now have access to the vaccine through our provider pharmacy so newly admitted residents and newly hired staff joining our team can also receive the vaccine.
For family members who have delayed action and have loved ones that need residential care, I suggest that this is a good time to start your research and make inquiries. Finding the right fit for your loved one can take some time and staff at our senior residential care centers across New Hampshire are ready to help. With vaccinations complete for now and enhanced safety protocols that have been refined for over a year, our centers now possibly represent the safest places where senior residential care can be compassionately delivered.