At the Diocese of Nashville’s assisted living facility, Mary, Queen of Angels, outside visitors, with the exception of health care workers, have not been allowed in the building since March 17, and residents are asked not to leave the facility.
This is critical in order to reduce the number of exposures to the COVID-19 virus, and help ensure the elderly residents remain healthy.
“We had a healthy infectious disease protocol already in place, but it’s on steroids now,” said David Glascoe, executive director of Mary, Queen of Angels.
Assisted living facilities in Tennessee are on high alert, especially after the coronavirus outbreak at the Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing, where dozens of cases were reported, and at least four deaths were attributed to COVID-19. As of April 1, according to the Tennessee Department of Health, there have been 2,239 confirmed cases of the virus in the state and 23 deaths.
The elderly, especially those with underlying health issues, are one of the most at-risk populations if they are exposed to the coronavirus, so Mary, Queen of Angels has made a number of changes to its typical daily operations to keep residents safe.
“We’ve followed every protocol and then some,” said Glascoe.
The facility has temporarily stopped communal dining times, with food now delivered to each of the 105 residents in their own apartment. They have also halted daily activities and Mass, which is now only available on television or online. And they have increased awareness about hand-washing and sanitizing.
“So far, so good,” said Glascoe, in terms of residents and staff members staying healthy. But to be prepared to respond to infectious illness of any sort, “we’re starved for all manner of PPE” (personal protective equipment), he said. “The need for hand sanitizer is very severe,” he added, “not just at Mary, Queen of Angels, but everywhere.”
Catholic Charities Sewing Training Academy volunteers are currently working to make masks, some of which will be delivered to Mary, Queen of Angels, so they can have them on hand if needed. (See the story on page 4 about the mask sewing effort).
With no visitors allowed at the facility at this time, “we’re trying to connect family members electronically,” Glascoe said. This is happening mainly through FaceTime and other video chat methods, with staff members assisting residents as needed. “We’re trying to create connectivity between people without them being next to each other,” he said.
Extra precautions are also in place at Villa Maria Manor, the diocese’s affordable housing apartment building for seniors, located adjacent to Mary, Queen of Angels. “That’s an independent living facility so we don’t have the same level of control,” at the Manor as at Mary, Queen of Angels, said Glascoe.
The 230 Villa Maria Manor residents are following Nashville Mayor John Cooper’s “Safer at Home” order, asking residents to stay home unless there is an essential need to leave, and not allowing outside visitors into the building at this time.
Villa staff members are still providing transportation to and from doctor appointments, pharmacies, and limited runs to grocery stores.
In a message to residents and family members, Villa administrators wrote, “We are doing all that we can to ensure that our building stays healthy and safe. Thank you for doing your part! We understand that this is a stressful time, and we are doing all that we can to reduce this stress.”