ArkLaTex nursing home reflects on last few months

5 months into pandemic, nursing home operator still fears anything could happen

SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Back in March, KSLA spoke to Magnolia Manor in Shreveport the same day the state rolled out regulations when it came to visitations at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“We have moved on from planning to implanting,” Don Flint, Administrator at Magnolia Manor said in that interview back in March. “We are trying to limit people coming into the building. We have all but one door blocked off. They are directed to a station and are asked a series of questions that have been suggested by the CDC to see if they may have come in contact with someone or there is a chance they have the coronavirus or the flu.”

Now, 5 months later, Flint says a lot has changed.

“Back when we first talked, we knew something was coming,” Flint said. “It looked like they were going to do some kind of lock down. The Governor announced then that we would be going into some sort of temporary lock down and since then, we have been in Phase 2. While we are still in Phase 2, we will remain locked down from visitation.

“Once we move out of that we should have some limited visitation with parameters, like keeping a certain distance, you may have to make an appointment, there may be a certain amount of people allowed, but nobody has said exactly how it will work. Every time I get on a call with the state or the people that I work with they are always mindful of visitation. They are mindful of how long these families have been apart. It’s even being brought up to bring plastic shields and letting people sit outside. We haven’t been able to do that yet, they aren’t quite comfortable with it. But we are always looking to increase the amount of contact families can have.”

Flint says trying to keep families connected have been a top priority since the pandemic shut down visitations.

“The most important thing is their health,” Flint said. “Health is also emotional. You have to think about how these families are away from each other and take into consideration their mental and emotional health. At first it was really difficult. Everyone was very cooperative though. The families really understood.”

He says families have stayed connected through iPads, making daily video calls to residents.

“That way you see how the person is doing,” Flint said. “It takes a load off your mind. Hopefully it allows families to still feel like they are caring for their loved one. It makes them feel better. It makes us feel better.”

To make sure residents don’t feel isolated, even from their fellow resident, Flint says they still hold socially distanced events.

“You can’t just completely block people away from others,” Flint said. “We have had bingo out in the hall while they are still 6 to 12 feet apart, we may spread out a room with 2 or 3 people in it and show a movie. It’s not necessarily a group activity, but at least you can see others. We talk with them about these things, what’s happening. They know how they feel and they are going to let you know how they feel, but residents have been happy.”

Flint says guidelines put out by the state and the CDC have changed drastically over the last few months.

He says they have started to do more things online and several rules are not as precise as they used to be. He says the guidance from the state and the CDC has been amazing.

Flint says Magnolia Manor’s policies and procedures are constantly changing, sometimes daily, and they have had to be more self-sufficient, but that they have made it work.

“The residents have been amazing and the families have been amazing,” Flint said. “What surprised me was how understanding people were. People really supported us. One of the families bought a big wooden sign and put it outside and it really lifted everybody’s spirits because it showed how much people appreciated them. That’s the kind of thing I saw more of. It really helped. The people here felt good.”

When KSLA first spoke to Flint, over 60% of coronavirus deaths in the United States are linked back to Life Care Center, a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington. The U.S. had around 1,200 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Now, the Unites States has over 5 million confirmed positive cases of COVID-19. If someone in the building tests positive, Magnolia Manor, as well as any other nursing home, has to alert every resident’s family within 24 hours.

“Looking back on it now, it’s strange,” Flint said. “We really didn’t know anything then. This has been the strangest year I think I have ever seen. But with all the bad, I have seen a lot of good come from this. Looking at our employees, we can tell they were meant to be here. They are still looking out for our residents.”

He says the employees have gotten closer, not only with their coworkers, but with their families.

“In the time they do spend at home they are talking to their families more,” Flint said. “They are spending more time with their families. I’m spending more time with my family. We’re talking about things that are more important. I’m finding that to be a common story with others in the building. It’s brought us closer together and we talk about things, like faith, why we do what we do, we speak about our families. That seems like one of the good things that came out of this. When you’re working with people towards one common goal, it brought us all closer together.”

As of August 12, one of the 8 residents of Magnolia Manor has tested positive for COVID-19. They have also has six staff members test positive, with two who have already recovered.

“That’s a good ratio,” Flint said. “We made goals for ourselves. We went to the 30th of June without any cases. We know our employees will get it because they are out in the community, but we wanted to make sure it didn’t get to our residents. We know other places in town that had outbreaks because some people carry it and don’t know it and be asymptomatic. When we get a case, and it will happen, we are going to try to keep it as low as possible, quarantine for 14 days, and start right back.”

Across Louisiana, nursing homes and assisted living facilities account for approximately 9% of the COVID-19 cases in the state at this time, down from 20% just two months ago.

Back in June, KSLA Investigates showed half of the COVID-19 related deaths in Northwest Louisiana were from nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Magnolia Manor’s chapel, which hasn’t been used by residents since March, is holding additional PPE.

The facility says thankfully, getting PPE hasn’t been a problem they have had to face. He says they have also gotten an electrostatic disinfectant sprayers, which Flint says can clean their facilities in minutes.

They also created a COVID-19 wing in their facility.

“The Governor required it, but it was really forward thinking at the time he requested it be made,” Flint said. “What they mean by COVID wing is you have to block a part of your building off, make it so if the hospitals get overwhelmed, people need to come to stay at a facility like ours or people come back after surgeries, because we can’t have people stay at the hospitals, there is somewhere for them to go and quarantine. So we built a movable wall and whenever someone comes in who may have it or are coming from the hospital, we would move it. We took up a whole wing. We could probably fit 14 people if we had to. Our maintenance supervisor here built the movable wall. It looks good and we have moved it front and back several times. When we need more beds, we will move it forward to create a bigger space.”

Flint says they test residents and staff every week and highlights LSU Health Shreveport for the work they have been doing when it comes to COVID-19. He says the Governor’s Office is going to be sending the facility point-of-care testing, where results are near immediate. Flint says they are working on the paperwork now and he believes it will also keep the case count down.

Flint acknowledges that anything could happen at any time, especially since some of their employees who tested positive were asymptomatic.

“It’s not over yet,” Flint said. “Talking to a doctor this morning, they had no cases, maybe one or two cases, then boom. They had 30 to 60 cases in just a couple of days. He says a CNA came in and they missed it. It spreads quickly. It’s still out there. We are just going to have to keep fighting every day until there is some type of solution. But I am very proud of what we have done.”

He says he understands families frustration with not being able to see their loved ones and says they are all waiting for the announcement on when families can see their loved ones face-to-face again.

“I say we don’t get complaints from families, but the one thing they always ask if when are we going to see out loved ones again,” Flint said. “We don’t know when this is going to end, how long it’s going to go on. It seems like the community will get better before nursing facilities, but I feel really soon they are going to change the way families can see their loved ones. Just know they are being taken care of. You can always call us. You can always call your loved on, see them through the phone and make sure they are taken care of. This may change our whole lives for a long time, I know it has definitely changed the way nursing and long care facilities will work from now on.”

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