Developmental Options is a nonprofit company located in Pocatello, Idaho, that serves adults and children with intellectual disabilities. The organization operates three Intermediate Care Facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Each facility serves eight individuals in a homelike setting across southeast Idaho, providing education on activities of daily living skills. 

At Developmental Options, efforts to streamline infection prevention have much to do with providing support and understanding for all those involved. ​

​​Drilling Down on Cleaning

Jamie AnthonyWhen the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, staff implemented several protocols in an effort to streamline infection prevention, says Jamie Anthony, LSW, residential program director at Developmental Options. 

The frequency of cleaning routines was increased across all shifts to frequently disinfect common areas and resident rooms. The staff faced obstacles obtaining appropriate cleaning supplies as the organization’s vendors had limited to no stock available. This forced staff to look elsewhere.

“Luckily, staff had other resources via alternative vendors, and they were able to find all of the items needed to keep the facilities properly cleaned and disinfected,” says Anthony. The struggle to find cleaning supplies resulted in a systematic change within the organization focused on supporting staff in obtaining and monitoring not only cleaning supplies but personal protective equipment as well. 

“Prior to the pandemic, we never worried about keeping an emergency supply of cleaning products in stock, but I think those days are over,” she says. Enhanced inventory monitoring of crucial supplies is now a permanent practice. 

​​Meals Take a Different Course

Meal protocols at Developmental Options’ centers were also modified, with support to staff and residents. Whereas residents were able to help with setting the tables, meal preparation, and facilitating family-style dining in the past, these opportunities were removed. 

“The change was a disruption in the residents’ routine and created obstacles in teaching the new normal for their meals,” says Anthony.

However, with time, patience, and the vaccine distribution, the organization has been able to reinstate its normal meal protocols, with restrictions. “Unvaccinated employees have to keep their masks on and refrain from eating with the residents,” says Anthony. Communication about the restrictions was vital, and the reinstatement came with new modifications, too.

“Some of the facilities purchased new kitchen tables to reduce the number of people sitting at one table,” she says. “This helped increase spacing at the tables and maximize social distancing while providing a more durable, cleanable surface.” 

​​Supporting Role in Infection Control

In the days of COVID, adjustments are the norm in a care center, and extra support—for staff, residents, and others—plays a leading role. “Staff have done a tremendous job over the last year and a half providing extra support to the residents,” says Anthony. It’s staff who, through their enduring relationships with residents, help them understand why outings may be limited to less crowded locations, how they can help with the cleaning tasks, and more.

“Staff help residents stay in contact with family members when face-to-face visits are on hold and find fun activities that are COVID-safe,” she says. 

Best practices are a few steps further in the line of support. “We have found several best practices beyond infection control practices,” she says. These include encouraging staff members who are reluctant to receiving the vaccine and conducting routine screening of staff, residents, and visitors for symptoms and routine staff testing.

“We have learned that both staff and residents need extra support and understanding in an effort to decrease stress and burnout,” says Anthony.

Providers have a plethora of information at their disposal on best practices related to COVID-19, but how they implement those practices into facilities looks different from one provider to the next depending on the dynamics of the facility.

“I think it is important to rely on our neighbors by reaching out to a fellow provider when we are struggling,” says Anthony. “This may be to ask about an idea on how to resolve an issue or to just get a little extra support. Building a strong community and comradery amongst providers helps everyone succeed, especially in times of great stress, strains, and painful experiences.”

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