Thursday, December 24, 2020 8:30 p.m. - We are all working hard to maintain a tricky balance between being excited and energetic for the holiday and pressing the urgency to staff of being extra cautious at Christmas family gatherings. In the interests of keeping HillHouse safe from covid, we have asked staff to refrain from gathering with people outside their households or if they do gather, to be as careful as possible keeping masks on, maintaining physical distance, and practicing good hand hygiene. We have posted family cards and emails urging caution and expressing gratitude for staff efforts.Our HillHouse Heroes #SaveOurResidents campaign is underway and we have hung these posters throughout the building. We have heard from Guardian Long Term Care Pharmacy that skilled nursing facilities will be vaccinated before assisted living, so HillHouse will likely be scheduled for the covid vaccine clinic in mid-January. This depends, of course, on the supply of vaccine to Maine. As of this writing, supplies are less than requested and expected and there is uncertainty about how this will impact administration of the vaccine around Maine’s long term care facilities.
In the meantime, however, we are urging staff to read about vaccine safety and we have posted information and provided links to the CDC website. Many staff are concerned; despite the scientific community’s evidence of vaccine safety, there is so much disinformation on social media that people are easily caught up in it. We will continue to seek out ‘trusted others’ who can convincingly convey the message of vaccine safety for direct care workers. This fascinating podcast from MedPage highlights the troubling efforts that the anti-vax community has made to undermine confidence in the convid vaccine. mlc
Sunday, December 6, 2020 8:30 p.m. - It seems best to reinstate the Pandemic Blog now that covid cases are rising sharply throughout Maine and here in Sagadahoc County. Based on the current 28-day rates, Maine DHHS guidance requires long term care providers to again suspend all visits (except for window visits, including those in our sealed foyer), suspend group activities, and non-essential medical appointments. We are still allowed communal dining as long as residents are seated 6’ apart, as we have done all year. In addition, HillHouse staff are required to wear eye protection at all times when around residents, so we have offered staff a few options for safety glasses and face shields.
We are anxiously awaiting further news on vaccine distribution. There is mixed news this weekend out of Washington. The Trump Administration has said vaccine distribution for long term care settings will begin in late December or certainly by mid-January. The incoming Biden Administration sounds less hopeful and has expressed concern about the lack of a comprehensive vaccine distribution plan. While each state has submitted an Interim Vaccine Distribution Plan (click here for Maine’s), states are relying on the federal government’s procurement of the vaccine supply from the manufacturers and distributors once the FDA has approved them for emergency use. We are partnering with Guardian Pharmacy - our pharmaceutical supplier - to administer the vaccine. If Guardian is unable to do so, then Walgreens Pharmacy is the back-up provider.
This coming week we will prepare our internal covid vaccine administration plan modeled on the steps HillHouse has taken each year when CHANS administers the seasonal flu vaccine. We will poll the staff and encourage each of them to get the covid vaccine as soon as it is available so that residents are protected. We are searching for ways to persuade staff who may be hesitant and mistrusting of the speed in which the covid vaccine was developed.
The good news is that resident life is proceeding as normally as possible and the Social Services staff are rising to the occasion with 1:1 activities and hallway activities to keep the mood festive during this holiday season. Santa will be visiting at lunch on December 18th and handing out presents for all residents. Until then there will be lots of festive music, special holiday treats, and plenty of decorations. The staff are still doing short drives in town with just one resident at a time to see the holiday lights.
This is a good time for all family members and friends to send cards and letters -- they are good for the soul AND they provide another opportunity for staff to pay a visit to a resident! mlc
Mary Lou Ciolfi, JD, MS, HillHouse's former Administrator, holds adjunct faculty positions at the University of New England and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and teaches courses in Health Policy and Aging Politics, Policy & Law. She has particular interests in Ageism, Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older People, and End-of Life Care