COVID-19 Vaccine Brings Hope to Nursing Homes
The process of vaccinating staff and residents for some nursing homes began last year in December. Families who have been separated from their loved ones since the pandemic began are eager to meet them. As hope is on the horizon, it will not be an immediate process. Long-term care leaders have to follow the rules and regulations as mandated by health officials as to when visitation restrictions can be lifted.
Presently, there are significant hurdles that nursing homes face when allowing socially-distanced visitations for families. For example, in New York visitations are banned for a certain period of time after a resident or staff tests positives. The clock resets every time after someone tests positive.
David Mills, CEO of a 70-facility North Shore Healthcare chain that includes both skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, is hopeful that things may be closer to normal in the second quarter of this year. With the partnership of CVS and Walgreens, the rollout of the vaccine has been a tremendous effort. Another challenge that facilities have faced has been to educate and encourage recipients to participate in the efforts to help make it a success. At the present time, about 50% – 60% of staff working in the facilities that David manages are participating. This range aligns with the average of the industry in general. The vaccine is not mandatory so participation cannot be enforced. Educational and awareness programs have been setup to help ease the anxiety and uncertainty that is involved pertaining to the vaccine. For David’s organization, this includes an educational video and posters that have been widely distributed within the facilities. Senior leaders have participated in the vaccination efforts to help lead by example.
It is the hope that vaccinations will lead to herd immunity in nursing homes as well. This will allow them to open their doors once again to family and friends. However, it will be up to the discretion of state and local public health officials as to when visitations will be allowed again.