Pandemic Preparedness and Response Team
In early March Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey assembled its COVID-19 Response Team in order to plan, communicate and implement stringent infection control protocols across all of its senior living programs, housing communities and social service programs. We had adapted our policies and practices to the CDC and the Department of Health requirements and continue to perform revisions as necessary. Daily team communication is essential. We continually draw on each other’s strengths to make important, life-saving decisions for our residents, employees, and the community-at-large.
Our Response Team is led by our Vice President of Clinical Services, and includes Directors from every department within our organization, as well as representatives from our partner organizations. Collectively, we are managing every aspect of resident and patient care, with the exception of our independent living population. The health of our patients and residents, their families, and our employees continues to be our highest priority.
The measures we have taken throughout our programs, include:
- Non-essential personnel are working remotely.
- Visitors are not permitted except in extenuating circumstances with administrative approval.
Social distancing is being strictly enforced. This applies to everyone — maintaining a safe distance of 6 feet or more. Screening for Symptoms
- All essential personnel are screened upon entering our senior care communities and are provided a mask and the directive to wear it at all times, in all places. This includes all of our staff, as well as the staff of Nutrition Management, SpiriCare and Journey Hospice, and all contracted agency and privately paid aides for residents. All are reminded often to self-monitor for symptoms while at work and at home. Staff screening upon entry of building includes temperature and evaluation of these criteria:
- Signs or symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat.
- In the previous 14 days, has had contact with someone with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, or under investigation for COVID-19, or are ill with respiratory illness.
- Been on a cruise ship, attended gatherings with large numbers of people, or been in a confined space with large groups of people.
- Traveled internationally within the past 14 days to countries with sustained community transmission. For updated information on affected countries visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html
- We have no medical role in Crane’s Mill Independent Living, but we continually remind these residents to self-monitor for symptoms, to follow the state’s guidelines to stay home, and to only engage in essential interactions.
Enhancing Infection Control Protocols
- All essential personnel are wearing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) at all times while on shifts and are receiving numerous in-service education on infection control, proper handwashing and contact precautions. When staff directly care for residents, they also wear face shields.
- More frequent disinfecting and extensive cleaning and sanitizing are being conducted throughout our buildings, especially on high touch areas.
Increased Monitoring of our Senior Care Residents
- In the past two months, we have been even more vigilant than our usual monitoring practices. In the Health Center (Skilled Nursing and Assisted Living), we are assessing vital signs (Pulse Ox, BP and temperature) at least two times every day.
- We are calling to check on our Independent Living residents twice a week.
- All residents have a pendant that allows them to contact staff instantaneously.
- Additional staffing has been acquired from nursing agencies to ensure that our residents are receiving the care they need. We are following the current CDC guidelines for these staff members.
- LSMNJ management team members are also working at our senior care locations to provide direct care to residents.
- Like other healthcare facilities and providers, we are restricted from large-scale testing unless specific criteria are met.
- Regardless, we know many people do not show symptoms at all, or do not show symptoms for a length of time. We consider each staff member and resident a possible carrier of COVID-19; testing does not change our precautionary actions.
LSMNJ continues to make every possible effort to keep our residents, patients and employees safe and healthy. We will continue to remain vigilant to implement additional precautions and protocols as recommended by the CDC and the NJ Department of Health as additional findings are shared with us.