The staff and residents at Woodland Care Center have experienced a year like no other.
With health protocols surrounding the pandemic, in-person visits to the facility were put on hold. In the early early months of summer 2020, the facility piloted an “iPad visitation program.” Thanks to a large donation of iPads, seniors were able to connect with their loved ones in a digital fashion as they weathered the pandemic.
According to Administrator Justin Settlemier, the program was a huge hit as some residents used the iPads nearly every day to communicate with their families.
In the fall, residents began to see their loved ones in person again with limited outdoor visitation for two visitors at a time in a tent outside the facility. Now, over a year after the pandemic began, Settlemier and the rest of the residents and team at the facility are looking toward the future.
“Our staff is feeling like we've really done something challenging,” Settlemier said about dealing with the pandemic. “(For) our next step, we want to celebrate the victory. As a facility, all residents and staff have some sort of celebration or victory. Once we can do that, we can heal and reflect on what we’ve accomplished.”
According to Settlemier, the metrics surrounding the safe start reopening plan for long-term care facilities such as Woodland Care Center are different than those for the public. As more public places open up at 25 percent capacity, Woodland Care Center is still limiting visits to outdoors, and in-home activities such as dining are still extremely limited to five person “pods.”
“The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) released some guidance for opening things back up for full visitation. However, for phase 1 and 2 we are still doing outdoor visits,” Settlemier said.
While most of the indoor visitation is on pause, Settlemier said that residents are allowed to designate an “essential visitor” who is allowed to come in and visit as long as the resident isn't quarantined.
“That’s as far as we can go for indoor visitation,” he said.
Settlemier said the next phase for long-term care facilities occurs when the local case rate drops below 50 cases per 100,000 people. Moving to Phase 3 will open up many more options for the facility, including indoor visitation and the return of group dining and events. Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday the entire state will soon be moving into Phase 3, lifting and reducing many pandemic restrictions.
While the center may not be 100 percent open for visitations, and bingo may be put on hold for a little longer, Settlemier and the rest of the crew at the facility accomplished a feat that brought them one step closer to normal: vaccination of the entire facility.
“Every single one of our residents and staff (at the time) were vaccinated,” he said. “That was huge.”
Settlemier explained how Woodland Care Center was the first facility in Southwest Washington to receive the vaccine, which was the two-dose Pfizer vaccine. The process of vaccinating everyone working and living at both the nursing home and assisted living facilities took about two months, with about 95 percent of people consenting to the vaccine. According to Settlemier, residents and staff working in the nursing home were vaccinated first, followed by residents and staff of the assisted living facility. All in all, the process took most of January and February to complete.
Settlemier said the vaccination process was relatively uncomplicated after everyone had worked out the kinks in the process. After CVS called the facility to let them know about their approval for vaccinations, people showed up two days later to go room to room and administer vaccinations to as many people as possible.
“It was a relief,” he said about vaccinations at the facility. “It gave us hope.”
While the vaccination process went pretty smoothly, Settlemier did say an employee had tested positive for COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine. However, it was a solo incident and no spread was detected. Settlemier emphasised how isolated incidents such as this show the importance of continuing many of the health protocols at the facility, such as an employee dedicated to monitoring the door and screening for COVID symptoms as well as the typical mask wearing and physical distancing recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since the mass vaccination was a one time thing, any new residents and staff are put on a list to receive the vaccine locally in Woodland as it becomes available, according to Settlemier.
Following the reopening of the facility, Settlemier said he was “looking forward” to continuing to build partnerships in the community and take the facility into the future.
“We are excited to see the local economy booming again,” he said. “We’d love to be able to have our residents go out into the community and be a living, breathing organization again.”