Cottages Provide the Answer to Family Visits at Senior Care Center

Gary M. Trullinger, NHA, Administrator,  Senior Care Center-Brunswick

When the pandemic forced senior care facilities to suspend traditional in-person family visits, many facilities turned to Skype, FaceTime, and even window visits. But Southeast Georgia Health System’s Senior Care Centers in Brunswick and St. Marys wanted to help facilitate that valuable in-person interaction that residents were accustomed to. And they found an innovative way to make those visits safe and feasible.

The Visitor Cottages

Gary M. Trullinger, NHA, Administrator at Senior Care Center-Brunswick, explains that 2020 has been an extremely challenging year. “Protecting the health and safety of our residents is our top priority in this fight against COVID-19, but we understand the emotional and psychological toll that social distancing and isolation can have on our residents and their loved ones’ health and well-being.”

To find a solution that allowed residents to visit privately and safely with family and friends, the Senior Care Centers installed a series of cottages.

The white visitor cottages, each featuring a covered porch, provide a safe and private place where residents, family, and friends can visit privately. Residents enter through a back entrance equipped with a wheelchair-accessible ramp and door. Visitors enter through the front door.

Each cottage is outfitted with a protective plexiglass shield, dividing the sitting area. The plexiglass stops short of the ceiling, so both parties can still hear easily. The climate-controlled room allows for comfortable visits no matter the weather, and it’s easier for residents to hear through the plexiglass than it is to hear through a window.

Senior Care Center-Brunswick, a large 200-bed center, has two visitor cottages in the main parking lot and an additional cottage in each of the other two remaining lots. The strategically positioned cottages are easily accessible by each resident wing. Family members still have access to plenty of parking. Senior Care Center-St. Marys is now home to two cottages.

While the cottages were delivered fully assembled, the Center made some modifications to improve them. Each cottage was first connected to the facility’s power source. Then, portable heating and air conditioning units, wheelchair ramps, and wall-mounted hand sanitizer dispensers were installed.

Keeping Visits Safe

Trullinger explains that the Senior Care Centers have implemented stringent regulations to help keep each visit as safe as possible:

  • Visits are limited to two people per resident at a time.
  • Everyone is screened for COVID-19 signs and symptoms, including temperature checks, before entering the cottages.
  • Visitors must wear a face mask during their arrival and during their visits.
  • Visitors must perform hand hygiene before and after each visit.
  • Cottages are cleaned and disinfected between visits.
  • Visits must be scheduled.

“Extra safety precautions aside, a cottage visit is like chatting in the comfort and coziness of a living room,” notes Trullinger.

Cottage visits are currently limited to 15 minutes so that all residents can use them, and the demand has been great. “Overall, the response has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Trullinger. “Social distancing and sheltering in place has been a daunting experience. In addition to window visits, virtual visits, and phone calls, the cottages are just one more way for us to keep our residents connected with their family and friends.”

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