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Area senior living facilities respond to COVID-19

The Marquette County Medical Care Facility in Ishpeming has sign postings on all of its entrances to suspend all visitations unless medically necessary. (Photo courtesy of MCMCF)

MARQUETTE — In response to the global outbreak of COVID-19, nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout Marquette County are taking measures to ensure the safety and health of their residents.

Brookridge Heights Assisted Living & Memory Care and Mill Creek Senior Living Community are two of several facilities in Marquette County trying to limit the exposure of the virus to residents and employees by implementing visitor restrictions and screening at the door.

Although there are not any confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Upper Peninsula or in Marquette, the elderly and those who have underlying health conditions with compromised immune systems are most vulnerable to the virus.

Cases from China, where COVID-19 first originated, showed that older adults are more susceptible to the virus, as are people who have serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Brookridge Heights is restricting visitation to those who are visiting residents receiving end-of-life care; medically and/or operationally essential personnel; limiting resident transportation services to scheduled appointments and scenic drives only; and limiting all excursions to public gathering spaces including grocery stores, religious services, shopping malls and theaters, according to a press release.

“While the rate of transmission of COVID-19 is currently low for the general public, the elderly and those with a compromised immune system seem to have a disproportionately higher risk of contracting and exhibiting serious complications of the disease,” Brookridge Heights Executive Director Jennifer L. Huetter said in a press release. “Given the demographic of our resident population, we have a heightened focus on preventative measures to reduce the chances of the exposure to those in our communities.”

Officials from Brookridge strongly recommend family members avoid taking residents out into the community unless medically necessary, according to the press release. Approved visitors and essential personnel will have to fill out the coronavirus screening questionnaire and have their temperature measured. Once approved, visitors will need to wash their hands and/or use hand sanitizer, the press release stated.

Brookridge is also taking the following measures:

≤ Closing all resident communal dining areas and canceling group activities.

≤ Recommending residents cancel or postpone all upcoming travel, including cruises and/or all flights.

≤ Requiring residents returning to the community following a hospital stay or a stay in another long-term care community present negative test results for COVID-19, or a note from their physician stating they are free from communicable diseases and do not pose a risk to others.

≤ Having new residents complete the coronavirus screening tool and have a negative COVID-19 test or a note from a physician stating they are free from communicable diseases and do no pose a risk to others.

≤ Prohibiting those diagnosed with COVID-19 or those who have reason to believe that they, someone in their household or someone they have close contact with has been exposed to COVID-19 from entering communities.

≤ Prohibiting any essential personnel who has traveled abroad in the last 14 days, or anyone sharing a household with a person who has traveled abroad in the past 2 weeks from entering communities for 14 days post-arrival if they remain symptom-free.

≤ Continuing to educate and reinforce sick leave policies and strict adherence to infection prevention.

To further prevent the spread of the virus, Brookridge employees are frequently disinfecting high-touch areas such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, faucets and handrails, increasing cleaning of high-traffic common areas such as dining rooms and activity spaces, reinforcing hand-washing and infection control and practicing good hygiene methods with protective equipment and cleaning supplies, officials said.

Mill Creek Senior Living Community is following similar measures with visitor restrictions including all family and friends, non-essential employees and most medical staff with the exception of hospice visits. Any individual entering the building is required to complete a medical wellness form, a vitals check including temperature and will require the approval of the clinical director, Mill Creek Assisted Living Activities Coordinator Beth O’Connor said.

During this time, it’s important the public understands the situation in its entirety, O’Connor said.

“The population (of) Mill Creek Senior Living Community services is most at risk. We are experiencing shortages in medical supplies due to (the) panicked public. Please remember the most vulnerable during this unprecedented pandemic,” O’Connor said.

With Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order to prohibit gatherings of over 50 people, residents will eat meals in their apartments to avoid large group gatherings and activity events will take place in apartments with small groups of four or less, O’Connor noted.

If residents begin to show signs or symptoms, they will be sent out for evaluation, O’Connor said, adding, employees will be required to self-quarantine to their home for up to two weeks and will be required to show medical proof to return to work.

“Change is hard for anyone but change can be hardest for the senior population,” she said. “Our residents are not as isolated as most but the lack of social interaction that they are used to is most challenging.

“For the most part, residents and families, vendors and delivery services are very understanding and willing to help protect our population in any way possible. Employees are willing to help with daily changes in department demands to assist where need is greatest.”

OTHER NURSING HOME FACILITIES

≤ Marquette County Medical Care Facility in Ishpeming is suspending all visitations and taking necessary precautions to protect its residents. Officials stated in a Facebook post that they “understand there may be certain medical circumstances that warrant the need for visitation. If this applies to you and your family, please contact the nursing department directly to schedule a visit.” For questions, call 906-485-1061.

≤ Norlite Nursing Center in Marquette is implementing strict visitor restrictions and daily screenings for employees. Residents and staff are encouraged to practice social distancing and during one-on-one care sessions, standard precautions are being followed. Group activities and communal dining will not take place for the next few weeks. Officials recommend calling or video chatting with a resident to limit exposure. For more information, call 906-228-9252.

≤ Eastwood Nursing Center in Negaunee is suspending all visits unless medically necessary to combat the spread of COVID-19. To contact a member of the administration, call 906-475-7500 between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.

≤ Trillium House in Marquette has implemented CDC recommendations with visitor restrictions. For questions, contact Executive Director Pat Bray at 906-236-3683 or email info@trilliumhospicehouse.org.

≤ The Lighthouse at Ishpeming Health and Rehabilitation Center now has Facetime available to chat with residents. Call 906-485-1073 and ask for activities between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to set up a time to chat with a loved one. On March 12, the facility released a press release announcing that they will follow advice and guidance from the Marquette County Health Department. Visitations will be restricted for one month unless medically necessary, emergency cases will be reviewed on a case-to-case basis. For questions, call 906485-1073 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

≤ Teal Lake Senior Living Community in Negaunee is requesting all family and friends of residents do not visit the community. Signs are posted at all entryways to limit visits unless medically necessary. Staff are encouraging alternative ways to continue communication including telephone, email, text, video chat or social media. For updates and questions, email residentcare@teallakeseniorliving.com.

Jackie Jahfetson can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is jjahfetson@miningjournal.net.

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