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Elder care facilities are managing virus thus far

HOUGHTON — People of all ages and living situations are concerned about COVID-19. The virus is believed to be most dangerous to people over the age of 65 and those with compromised immune systems and the best way to avoid it is to come into contact with as few people as possible. That puts elder care facilities in a difficult position.

“One of the biggest things that we did was to take some aggressive steps a few weeks ago, before the panic had really started,” Bluffs Executive Director Jessica Bracco said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Those “aggressive steps” included limiting visits and screening everyone entering the building, as well as increasing sanitation awareness for employees.

Similar steps have been taken at other facilities in the area. According to the COVID-19 response page posted by Gardenview Assisted Living and Memory Care in Calumet, precautions there largely involve an increase focus on cleanliness, and canceling community events. Representatives of Gardenview could not be reached for comment at the time of printing.

“(There has) actually been a very positive response, especially from families and visitors. They know that we’re doing our best to keep their family members safe,” said Bracco. “Some of the residents have been a little confused so we’re reassuring them.”

Similarly, social contact remains very important for the elderly. While visiting individuals living in care facilities is allowed by the stay-at-home order issued by the Governor and effective Tuesday morning, visits remain at the discretion of the individual facilities. Visitor limitations put in place by facilities have been difficult for some, though messaging services help to connect residents to family members.

“We’ve been setting up several of the residents with their families on FaceTime or Skype, and it has been just awesome,” said Bracco. “It’s totally taken away the miles between them and their family members.”

The Bluffs is also engaged in a social media campaign in which residents use whiteboards to write messages to friends and family members. Photos are then taken and shared. On the other side, Bracco reports that family members have colored cards and sent them as emails. These can then be printed and distributed at the Bluffs to reduce contamination risk. Those wishing to send digital cards and art to residents can send content via email to activities@thebluffs.org.

“We have to be very mindful of the residents and keeping people away, but anything that we can do we’re excited to do,” said Bracco.

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