By Michael E. McRae
With spring just around the corner, we’re all looking forward to a little fresh air.
That means not only better weather but also a refreshing change in our lives now that COVID-19 vaccinations are under way. This includes new visitation policies at nursing homes in accordance with federal and state health guidelines — welcome news for residents, their families and those of us who work in senior care.
It doesn’t mean, however, that everything is back to normal — or at least what “normal” used to look like. Nursing homes continue to serve those who are the most vulnerable. It has always been our top priority to protect their health and safety. Over the past year that bar has been even higher, and thanks to an extremely dedicated workforce we have risen to the challenge.
We’ve also been at the forefront when it comes to vaccinations. St. Ann’s Community, for example, has offered the vaccine to all of its residents and staff, as have nursing homes across the state. Similarly, we encourage visitors to get the vaccine if you are eligible. When you do, you develop enough antibodies to help your body fight COVID-19 effectively and potentially prevent it altogether. While no vaccine is perfect, it’s safe to say that the vaccines now available and those to come will be crucial in ending the pandemic.
Even if you’ve already had COVID-19 and developed antibodies, it’s wise to get vaccinated so you are protected against future infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends waiting 90 days after your infection to be vaccinated.
We also continue our focus on testing. Currently nursing home employees are required to be tested twice a week to reduce the risk of virus transmission in our communities. At St. Ann’s we have invested in “point of care” testing, which means employees can be tested on site. The tests are self-administered and yield results in just 15 minutes.
Testing is important for nursing home visitors, too. The New York State Department of Health recommends they test negative for COVID-19 before their visit. That’s sound advice. Free, rapid testing for individuals who are not exhibiting symptoms is offered by the Monroe County Health Department. (Details at monroecounty.gov/health.)
At St. Ann’s, for the convenience of our visitors, we offer “point of care” testing Mondays and Thursdays from 10 am to 2 pm. As with our employees, visitors can self-administer the test and get results in 15 minutes. (Details at stannscommunity.com/coronavirus.) We encourage everyone to take advantage of testing to ensure a safe visit with your loved one.
The everyday precautions we’ve been taking for the past year continue to be important in helping keep everyone as safe as possible. That means social distancing, wearing masks and frequent hand washing/sanitizing. These measures remain in place in nursing homes (and elsewhere) even as vaccines lower the risk of infection.
By remaining vigilant and not dropping our guard, we can enjoy the beauty of springtime and in-person visits with our elders while maintaining good health for all.
Note: By the time that this article is published, some information may have changed. Contact St. Ann’s Community if you have any questions.
Michael E. McRae is president and CEO at St. Ann’s Community. For more information about St. Ann’s, visit www.stannscommunity.com.