No Visitor Policies and Vaccinations Come to Sweet Home
January 13, 2021
With the end of the holidays, the Sweet Memorial Nursing Home is implementing a two-week period of no visitors but welcoming the vaccine for COVID-19. Visitations are scheduled to restart after January 18.
According to Sweet Memorial Nursing Home (SMNH) Administrator Rebecca Shackelford, the "no visitors" policy is meant to mitigate a spike in COVID cases.
"The holidays felt different here for sure," Shackelford said. "But we have been without a positive COVID case since December 2, which has been a very welcome calm. Our residents were able to have some holiday visits, and that really helped their demeanors."
Despite that calm, officials at the Home remain vigilant about closely monitoring the County positivity rate and waiting until at least two weeks post New Year's before they go forward with any more scheduled visitations.
"In addition to whether or not we have any active cases in our facility, a County positivity rate of less than ten percent is what drives whether or not we can have visitation – per the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines," Shackelford explained. "We still test staff and residents twice a week and will continue doing that while we wait out the fourteen days since the holidays to see whether Blaine County's positivity rate spikes any."
On December 23, with the assistance of the Blaine County Health Department and its lead local health official, Jana McPherson-Hauer, RN, the residents, staff, and employees at SWMH began receiving coronavirus vaccinations.
"We were able to give the COVID vaccine to one resident and nine staff members. On the 30th, we vaccinated another twelve residents and four more staff members. As we collect additional informed consent forms from the residents' families, we will work through vaccinating the rest of those that wish to be vaccinated. Another couple of staff members will be vaccinated as well," Shackelford reported.
Given the lull in the virus's spread, SMNH residents have returned to eating meals in their dining room. "We are still practicing social distance guidelines with two residents to a table," Ward Clerk, Carla Uhl explained.
Activities Manager Michelle Snell and her Department Aide Stephanie Talksdifferent were busy last month coordinating leisure interests for the residents. These activities included hosting visits from Santa Claus as well as various animal guests, constructing and decorating gingerbread houses, and celebrating the New Year with a party.
"Our residents love to have animal guests," Uhl said. "A few of our CNA's brought in their new family members, and Swede Welsh could not stop smiling while he was petting Alyssa Gruszie's pup."
During the building of gingerbread houses, Bonnie Russell and her construction partner claimed to be first time builders. Considerable laughter emanated from that construction site as jelly beans and gumdrops found their way onto the creation. Russell's partner, who wishes to remain unnamed, said: "My goal every day is to make the residents smile, and I love helping them. Bonnie is really fun! All the residents are, and it's cool to have a different connection with each one of them."
On Christmas Eve, Santa Claus visited. The mysterious man behind the beard claims that "who played Santa isn't relevant. When I was Santa, I wanted to do whatever it took to get a smile out of each resident, and I did. Doris Hofeldt even danced with me. That was a surreal moment, with everyone watching. After about five minutes, Doris asked, 'Now what do you wanna do? You need to take a rest?' I laughed out loud!"
Dancing also played a role at the Home's New Year's celebration. Horn blowing, refreshments, and the wearing of hats likewise helped to make the day merry as the residents welcomed 2021 and wished for brighter days ahead.