Nursing homes: Very little has changed since reopening – The Pioneer

BIG RAPIDS — While the rest of Michigan has reopened and regained a sense of normalcy, one community that remains the same are nursing homes. Older adults were one of the most vulnerable populations during the age of COVID-19, and many nursing homes have kept restrictions in place.

Altercare in Big Rapids are still running with normal COVID restrictions. Altercare is a nursing home that provides transitional care, long-term and memory care.

Donette Neal, admissions and marketing director, said everything looks as if restrictions were still in place at a state level.

“With our skilled nursing center and the regulations, very little has changed. We are still under the highest level of regulation that there is,” Neal said. “Whether someone has been vaccinated or not.”

Neal said COVID-19 has changed everything about how they care for their elders. She said Altercare continues to social distance, wear masks and goggles.

“If you’re visiting a loved one, you have to schedule in advanced. We administer a rapid COVID test and a screening process regarding COVID symptoms. We also ask of you to set an amount of time you would like to visit,” Neal said.

As far as vaccinations, 80-90% of residents are vaccinated. Neal said Altercare staff isn’t as high as that. Those who chose not to get vaccinated take a weekly COVID test and screening process.

Looking ahead, Neal said she believes nursing homes and assisted living facilities will be the last institutions to loosen up COVID-19 restrictions because they are caring for one of the most vulnerable populations.

Like Altercare, Big Rapids Fields: Assisted Living & Memory Care is also using normal COVID-19 regulations.

Administrator Kenda Gilbert said although COVID-19 restrictions are loosening up, the senior population stays precautious.

“They’re still a little weary of COVID, so going out to activities outside of the facility is a little scary to them,” Gilbert said.

To help with this issue residents are allowed guests with a 24-hour notice, a scheduled period, and practice proper masking and social distancing. Big Rapids Fields does offer unlimited outside visits, Gilbert said.

Gilbert said that for the future she hopes assisted living facilities will also feel a sense of normalcy.

“As things start to loosen up in the outside world, hopefully we’ll have some restrictions lifted as well so we can help ensure our senior population is getting the things that they want like activities and quality time with loved ones,” Gilbert said.

At the other end of the spectrum, things are looking at little bit differently at Evergreen assisted living.

Administrator Erika Fredrick said adjusting to COVID restrictions have been going well.

“Our residents are loving that we don’t have to schedule visits anymore, or have special visitation rooms, they’re able to hug again,” said Fredrick. “Evergreen took a stance that this is their home, they don’t have to wear the masks. We have to wear the masks.”

Fredrick said things are starting to look normal, church service is back, volunteers can help again, and Evergreen is able to host live music events. The front door does remain locked so COVID screening can still take place, Fredrick said.

“We have tried to keep it as normal as possible, we’ve stayed COVID free, and we plan to continue to do that. It was a scary time,” Fredrick said.