Avera Senior Living Communities Continue Policies to Protect Residents

YANKTON, S.D. (Press Release) – Residents of long-term care and assisted living centers are among the most vulnerable populations for COVID-19. Avera continues efforts to protect these residents as well as employees.

“We are grateful that across Avera we’ve had only a few cases so far in long-term care with limited spread, yet we recognize that new cases can crop up at any time and are very watchful,” said Doug Ekeren, Administrator of Avera’s long-term care strategic business unit and President and CEO of Avera Sacred Heart Hospital in Yankton. “Our efforts include ongoing prevention as well as protocols for what we will do if a positive case is identified.”

“We have plans in place at all our facilities to designate a separate area or location for COVID-positive residents to provide isolation and limit the number of staff taking care of that resident,” Ekeren said.

Avera eCARE® Senior Care provides around-the-clock telehealth access to urgent care and consults to help facilitate care in place for a full range of issues – not just virus symptoms.

“With the help of eCARE Senior Care, our centers are ready to care for many of these residents in place. Certainly if their symptoms are serious enough they would be transported to a hospital,” said Joseph Rees, DO, Avera geriatrician and Avera eCARE® Senior Care Medical Officer.

Avera is offering voluntary testing for all residents and staff at long-term care centers and attached assisted living centers. Avera has already been screening all staff and residents daily for COVID-19 symptoms. “Since it is possible for someone to spread COVID-19 without experiencing symptoms, testing can help to identify people who may be unknowingly carrying the virus,” Rees said.

The federal government has recommended COVID-19 testing in long-term care centers take place over the next several weeks. “We are working cooperatively with our various states according to their plans for this testing,” Ekeren said.

Any employee who tests positive will be asked to self-isolate at home for 10 days, and any residents who test positive will be cared for in a designated area or location that’s separate from other residents.

All staff wear face shields and masks at all times, and other protective equipment as needed.

Many Avera long-term care centers have developed virtual town hall meetings to keep families informed. Participants have the opportunity to email their questions in advance to help ensure all questions are addressed. “This has been very successful in giving families and loved ones peace of mind,” Ekeren said.

Long-term care centers continue their no visitors policy. “Limiting visitors limits opportunities for the virus to come into our facilities that much more,” Ekeren said. “We know this is difficult for residents and their loved ones.”

Staff are working with families and residents to facilitate face-to-face meetings through platforms such as FaceTime and Zoom. “These options are helping families and residents keep in touch and at least see each other face to face during this difficult time,” Ekeren said.