Senior groups working to keep seniors safe, socially engaged – with precautions

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic forced many senior care facilities and organizations that provide services to close their doors to the public, and officials say they are doing what they can to ensure the people in their care are healthy physically and mentally.

Individuals in older age groups are more vulnerable to the effects of the COVID-19 virus. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock instituted visitor restrictions at nursing homes and care facilities to protect residents, but facility administrators all recognize the dangers of social isolation as well.

The Beaverhead Senior Citizens Association and Beaverhead Allied Senior Services are continuing to deliver Meals on Wheels to area seniors, President Jim Carpita said. Though the local senior center closed its gatherings and communal meals due to coronavirus restrictions, officials are doing everything they can to ensure county seniors receive both food and companionship from afar.

Carpita said board members started a “calling tree” – each one calls a portion of the association’s 93 members two- to three times a week to check in and chat.

“We see how they are doing, ask what we can do for them,” he said. “We ask them to call someone else, so there won’t be as much loneliness. Even though it’s still not the best option, we want to let people know we are thinking about them.”

The association provides Meals on Wheels Monday to Friday, and those who need the service can fill out the forms and start getting meals as well. The meals are prepared through Barrett Hospital’s kitchen. There are approximately 20 people receiving meals, and Carpita said volunteers can handle more as needed. Those seeking more information about senior services and Meals on Wheels can call Carpita at 406-683-4265.

Local grocery stores have set aside time periods for seniors to go in at the start of operations, which is the best time to reduce exposure after the store has been cleaned, Carpita said. Both Safeway and Blacktail Pharmacy have also instituted prescription delivery services; residents are asked to call and arrange the deliveries.

Legacy Assisted Living in Dillon is “doing everything possible to keep our residents safe,” Owner Kevin Button said in an emailed response. Legacy’s officials are in contact with local health professionals to ensure residents are safe and cared for, and staff are doing what they can to ensure residents do not feel isolated despite visitation restrictions.

“At the Legacy, we have been trying to keep the spirits of the residents up by doing different activities and continuing to try to have fun while we are in isolation,” he added. “We have implemented additional measures above what the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is recommending.”

Those measures include staff disinfecting as they come on shift, and recording temperatures of residents, Button said. Staff stay home at any signs of fever, cough or other sickness, until they are cleared to return to work with a doctor’s note.

Pioneer Care and Rehabilitation officials are following CDC guidelines and recommendations to maintain quality of life for its residents, according to an emailed statement to the Dillon Tribune.

“Our commitment to meeting physical, emotional, and spiritual needs will continue throughout and beyond the nation’s difficult time,” the statement from the Pioneer Care leadership team indicated. “We welcome phone calls and interaction via social media to help bridge the gap during the time of our visitor restrictions.”

Renaissance Senior Care officials stated on its website that staff are prioritizing the safety of residents and staff members, and are following all CDC recommendations. Administrators have told staff to immediately inform their supervisors if they are not feeling well, and to seek medical advice prior to coming to work or to stay home.

Renaissance asks for only essential family visits, if the family member does not have any symptoms of illness. If a visit cannot be postponed, they are asked to call first to protect everyone’s health. All visitors and staff have their temperatures checked before entry, and residents are checked on a daily basis.