Page 62 - Healthcare News Nov/Dec 2021
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from high-stress hospital and acute-care settings, and ask instead about shifts in schools, clinics, camps, and the like.
Berman said his industry has long had to stay on message simply because the role of a nurse in a skilled-nursing facility has never been the most glamorous-sounding job. While some people have a passion and calling for it, others need to be persuaded that this is fulfilling work, he noted.
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said it’s a form of therapy when violinists, pianists, and other musicians come to play.
“Studies show music touches a part of the brain and leaves a positive impact,” she noted. “Music goes a long way toward self-care and helps people feel better about themselves.”
Jones credits her activities staff for finding an innovative way to include singers into music performances while still following COVID mandates.
“We had singers outside in the courtyard area while the residents gathered in the library with the doors open so they could see and hear the entertainment from a safe distance,” she said.
As mandates continue to gradually ease, everyone who spoke with HCN expressed gratitude for all the difficult work the staff at senior-living communities performed dur- ing the worst days of the pandemic.
At the height of COVID, residents were essentially quar- antined in their apartments, so staff at each facility made an extra effort to stay engaged with them.
“Our resident-care attendants and activity teams all turned into nail technicians, hairdressers, and personal stylists,” Cornwell said. “They did everything to keep resi- dents looking good, feeling good, and feeling like someone cared.”
At the peak of the pandemic, when frequent tempera- ture taking was essential, staff would dress up as a lion or some other whimsical costume just to get a laugh out of the residents.
One common practice at several facilities involved open- ing apartment doors and encouraging residents to socialize from the entrance of their unit. Staff would also use the hallway as the focal point for a bingo game and, in one instance, as a socially distanced bowling alley. “All the staff found creative ways to keep things social,” Jones said.
Added Cornwell, “the pandemic has been difficult and extremely challenging. Our residents rallied, and I give our staff 100% props for their out-of-the-box thinking to keep people safe and engaged.”
Before vaccines were available and while COVID was rampant, Todd said patients at the skilled-nursing facility at Loomis Lakeside at Reeds Landing could not have any visitors in their rooms. Fortunately, that unit is located on the first floor.
“Families were able to visit their loved ones through the window and could communicate by phone or iPad through the glass,” she explained. “We wanted to address social
ing them an education and certifying them and, in return, ask them to sign on for six months,” Flahive-Dickson said. “It’s one of the ways we try to offset the incredible need that COVID posed.”
Hatiras understands that other indus- tries are facing similar headwinds when
it comes to the availability and rising cost of talent. “You’ve seen everyone struggle. Look at the restaurant industry. When I see McDonald’s advertising high pay rates and tuition reimbursement, you know how bad things are.
“I don’t think this is going to be a short-
lived situation,” he added. “It’s going to take a long time to dig out from under ... you can’t refresh the pipeline immediately.”
Steve Walsh, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Assoc., took a similar perspective during a recent meeting of the Health Policy Commission’s advisory council.
“I get that people fully want to go back to some semblance of normal,” he said, “but our healthcare organizations don’t have that option.” v
“Everyone is looking for staff, and everyone is being bombarded with different messages recruiting people. That becomes more challenging for us.”
Some organizations have become cre- ative in building their own talent pipeline. Faced with a shortage of CNAs in the region, Legacy Lifecare created its own school, covering the cost of training for several dozen individuals so far and hiring many of them.
Likewise, Golden Years offers a 75-hour home health aide certification course, a $1,200 to $1,500 value, for free. “We’re giv-
  isolation while at the same time keeping everyone safe.” Without that effort to engage with residents, the lack of
socialization can quickly lead to depression, Jones noted. “Once they could leave their rooms again, I heard one woman say to another, ‘I haven’t held anyone’s hand in so long.’ Social interaction is a good distraction.”
For nearly four years, Gladys Fioravanti has lived at the Arbors in Chicopee. She believes activities are an important part of staying healthy.
“If you sit in your room day after day, you start thinking too much,” Fioravanti said. “You think of your loss, then
you break down and cry and need some pills to calm you down, so I think it’s good to have something to do.”
She takes part in a number of activities because they keep her busy, but not too busy.
“I like the exercise class in the morning followed by the Mass right after,” she said. “After exercise, the Mass allows you to cool down.”
One afternoon, Fioravanti was sitting in the library area with several friends, including Claire Henault, whom Fioravanti met at the Arbors.
“We play cards together,” Fioravanti told HCN. “We cheat together — I mean, Claire cheats.” At which point Henault chimed in, “I can’t be cheating because I never win.”
Moving Toward Normalcy
While residents are free to move around their facilities, families are not yet allowed in common areas but may visit loved ones in their apartments, where they can eat in the unit or take the resident out for dinner. Before COVID, families could join the loved ones during activity time.
“Recently, a family member called just to ask when they can attend the activities again because they enjoyed it too,” Moran said.
All the managers praised the patience families showed
during the worst days of COVID. Since the beginning, Cornwell said, they have educated families on the latest protocols and good safety habits. “And we’re still educating them.”
The use of iPads and other tablets were a key to connect- ing families with their loved ones when no visitors were allowed. Cornwell said Kimball Farms parent Berkshire Health Systems invested in tablets so residents could
speak to family members on Skype or FaceTime. Even for residents who were aphasic and had trouble with verbal communication, that connection was still important for all involved.
“Even if the resident couldn’t verbally express their feel- ings, they could at least see the faces of their loved ones and hear their voices,” Cornwell explained. “Family members were able to see the resident’s smile and maybe even some blush on their face when our care attendants would put some makeup on them to help them look beautiful for the camera.”
As more people receive the COVID vaccine and booster shot, Moran hopes to eventually see families back inside the Atrium at Cardinal Drive.
“It’s enjoyable when we have lots of people here with the residents and the families are all talking with each other,” she said. “I don’t know when we’ll be able to invite everyone back in, but I hope we eventually can because I miss them.”
Like many industries, senior care is always looking to add more staff. Still, Jones noted, while the Arbors had some challenges, staffing is not a big issue.
“We have several staff members who have been with us for more than 20 years,” she said. “We will always have turnover, but we also have a core of stable employees, so that’s a real positive.”
During the height of COVID, Moran hired a number of Harbor Universal Associates (HUAs) to accommodate resi- dents who may want coffee before 9 a.m. when breakfast is served. By having this extra staff person to help and engage with residents, Moran can offer what she called parallel programming.
“We may have one main activity going on in the center of the room, while several smaller groups are doing what they want around the perimeter,” she said. “The HUAs provide that added level of support for our residents who want to do their own thing.”
When a family comes to visit a new resident, Jones said, her goal is to be able to tell them, “your mom is busy right now.”
Ultimately, she added, all the activities available for se- niors creates what she called a healthy distraction. “It beats having dinner with Pat and Vanna every night.” v
  Once they could leave their rooms again, I heard one
woman say to another, ‘I haven’t held anyone’s hand in so long.’ Social interaction is a good distraction.”

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