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 AHCA/NCAL Seeks Way to Increase Resident Interactions While Remaining Safe

Even as the start of September looms, the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA.NCAL) said the COVID-19 pandemic still poses a considerable threat to residents, patients, and staff in long term care facilities.

Until there is a vaccine and/or additional courses of treatment, long term care providers must continue to take all the necessary precautions to prevent the virus from entering their buildings, the association said.

While long term care facilities have been leveraging technology to connect residents and patients with their loved ones remotely during the pandemic, providers know that face-to-face connections with friends and family are an important component in the overall health and well-being of residents. 

AHCA/NCAL said it wants to increase opportunities for visiting and supporting social connection, while maintaining infection prevention and control practices. 

“Reopening should be based on innovative methods of keeping residents connected based on current understanding of the status of the pandemic and most effective approaches to mitigate its spread,” the group said. 

The decision to resume visitation should be based on a framework that includes:

--Current community prevalence; and

--Facility-level factors such as adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for residents, visitors, and staff, as well as adequate testing.

AHCA/NCAL said independent research shows that community spread is a key driver of infection risk for nursing home residents and staff. “We saw this come to fruition as the number of positive COVID-19 cases in nursing homes hit its peak at the end of July due in large part to the surge of cases in the Sun Belt region,” the group said. 

Ensuring that long term care facilities have enough PPE and testing is the most effective way to keep residents and staff safe.

“Before facilities can allow visitors, they must have enough masks, gowns, and gloves for residents, guests, and staff. Additionally, facilities must have the ability to conduct widespread testing with access to rapid results. Ongoing support from federal and state governments will help ensure that facilities have these essential supplies,” AHCA/NCAL said. 

Reopening to visitors requires a collaborative approach that addresses social isolation, while reinforcing the necessary steps for infection control. Providers need flexibility to receive input from residents through resident and family councils, while working together with families, ombudsman, and other stakeholders, the association said.

“The health and safety of residents and staff should always be the No. 1 priority. Providers are eager to welcome family and friends back into our facilities, but doing so requires a measured and cautious approach,” the association said. ”By taking these factors into consideration, facilities can begin to work toward reopening at the appropriate time.”

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