STAUNTON — Senior living communities have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, but one local facility has been hard at work to ensure its staff and residents’ safety.
The Virginia Department of Health recognized The Legacy at North Augusta for its work throughout the pandemic last month.
Results from an infection prevention and control assessment (ICPA) conducted in June show the facility excelled in three areas — clear signage and screening process for arriving visitors, frequent screenings of residents and staff members, and a rigorous mitigation program.
The IPCA assessment team saw no opportunities for improvement and congratulated the senior living community on a job well done.
“For them to come back and personally acknowledge and praise us is extremely rewarding,” said Legacy’s executive director Cherie Powers. “That was very gratifying.”
Out of the 78 seniors living at the facility, none have tested positive for COVID-19. One staff member tested positive for the virus in May, but the individual had no direct contact with residents and returned to work after spending two weeks in quarantine.
The Legacy at North Augusta is part of National Lutheran Communities & Service. The faith-based, non-profit ministry also serves communities in Maryland. The state’s elderly care facilities were devastated by the virus’s outbreaks early on in the pandemic, and protocols were put in place to protect those communities.
On March 6, The Legacy at North Augusta implemented protocols similar to those in Maryland. Community visitation was restricted to essential visits only, public activities were canceled and communal dining was done away with. Since then, daily health screenings have been conducted for both residents and staff.
“We were very proactive before it actually started occurring in Virginia,” Powers said.
Lisa Ramsey serves as the nursing director of the facility. She said the staff follows the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention’s suggestions for nursing homes preparing for COVID-19.
“We’re just making sure that everyone is being responsible for their actions in and outside of the community,” Ramsey said.
Until last month, residents could only see their loved ones through virtual visits on iPads. The facility now has “Come Sit a Spell” and “Picnic on the Porch,” which allow residents to sit in the Dixie Theater and visit with their loved ones through a window. Residents use a speakerphone to speak with visitors on their cell phones. The theater and screened-in porch are cleaned after each visit to ensure everyone’s safety.
Communal dining is still prohibited, but residents have enjoyed a few other amenities that aren’t closed off because of the pandemic. The library is still available for use with one chair per table and the gym and recreational area is open for one participant at a time. All areas are cleaned by staff after residents use them.
Allison Combs, sales and marketing director with National Lutheran Communities & Services, said that new residents have moved into the community throughout the pandemic. Combs added the facility continues to provide the safe environment they are well-known for.
“We don’t want families or residents to be concerned about considering a move,” she said.
New residents are asked to self-quarantine for 14 days as a precautionary measure and immediately begin health screenings after moving in.
“Those who have come in have adjusted well,” Combs said. “It’s like they’ve been there for a very long time and became a part of the community quickly.”
Powers said that both staff and residents had thanked her for the protocols put in place and told her how safe they feel at The Legacy at North Augusta.
The facility is considering the possibility of resuming in-person visits next week. Residents and family members will be physically distanced to keep everyone safe.
“We don’t know exactly how long this is going to last,” Powers said. “We understand the importance of being able to see family.”