Safely Welcoming Visitors to Senior Care Facilities
With the pandemic’s social distancing requirements, senior care facilities across the country had to temporarily cease allowing visitors. Facilities got creative with window visits and video calls, but as states have gradually lifted business restrictions and released new guidelines, facilities have welcomed back some visitors.
Allowing visitors back into these buildings is full of new challenges, and the following tips can help facilities to keep residents, staff, and visitors safe as they start to open up their doors again.
Develop Detailed Visitor Requirements
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends that facilities implement restrictions like limiting the number of visitors, limiting visitor hours and visit locations, and even restricting visits to compassionate care visits only. Visitors should not be permitted to enter if they are ill or have a known exposure to someone who has COVID-19.
Consider the ways that your facility can minimize the risk of visits. Directing all visitor traffic into one main entrance can help your receptionist to keep track of visitors and ensure that visitors check in and undergo proper temperature and symptom screening.
Design your reception area with six-foot distancing in mind. Consider using tables to keep visitors back six feet from the desk. Installing Germ Screen© dividers across the reception desk can also help to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Require visitors wear masks the entire time they are in the building, and request that they wash or sanitize their hands before proceeding into the visitation room.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recommends that facilities strategically identify an appropriate visitation space. This space should not be a resident’s room, but it should be a space that is easily accessible so visitors don’t have to walk through many of the building’s halls and other rooms.
Implement Steps for Contact Tracing
Establishing a process to gather visitor contact information is also essential in the event that a facility needs to implement contact tracing. Develop a process to record important details about when a visitor arrives, how long they stay, where in the facility they travel, and who they interact with during that time. Having these records already prepared can speed along the contact tracing process.
Install Signage to Reinforce the Facility’s Safety Measures
While visitors may read and agree to visitation policies, it’s important to reinforce those requirements during their time in the building. Signage is an effective way to do this. The CDC states that facilities should post signs at their entrances informing visitors to check in at the front desk. Other types of signage can also be helpful:
- Signage reminding visitors, residents, and staff to wear face coverings
- Signage identifying temperature screening locations
- Floor decals clearly indicating where visitors should wait in line to maintain six-foot distancing
Mike Kelly, V.P. of National Accounts at HealthcareSigns.com, notes that signage is an effective way to ensure that visitors are all compliant with the facility’s rules. While HealthcareSigns.com has been working with senior care facilities for over 25 years, the business has quickly pivoted to create the unique signage required during the pandemic. The business has begun producing hand sanitizer holders, floor decals to ensure social distancing, signs reminding visitors to wear face masks, Germ Screen© barriers, and more.
Kelly explains that deciding on appropriate signage isn’t always a matter of just identifying the right messaging. ADA compliance and adherence to current CMS guidelines are also a concern. HealthcareSigns.com works to take that burden off of busy business owners and administrators during this already stressful time.
“CMS came out with guidelines last month, and we were already ahead of their signage guidelines,” explains Kelly. “We have a breadth of experience in the challenges that senior living facilities face even in the best of times. With our SignSpec© full facility quote, we guarantee that signs are ADA and Life Safety Code compliant. Senior living facilities are experts in taking care of seniors – they don’t need to be experts in signage.”
It’s that effort to make ordering signage easier that led HealthcareSigns.com to create its SignSpec© Planning Service. Anyone placing an order can upload a floor plan of their facility and information about their project and its goals. They’ll then receive a free, detailed quote including an illustrated project summary that identifies the signs that the design team has chosen for the facility, along with their location. The signs ship with a label on their backs with their corresponding installation number, simplifying the installation process.
HealthcareSigns.com works with smaller projects, too. “Facilities can log in 24/7 if they need a new sign with a new message,” says Kelly. “They can pick their sign type, play with color combinations and fonts, and customize is right on the screen before placing the order.”
The process is fast, delivering prompt production and shipping that many facilities rely on as they adapt to and respond to the changing pandemic environment. Smaller orders ship in 10 days or less, while full facility projects based on SignSpec© quotes ship within 15 to 20 business days. Industry standard is six to eight weeks.
Paying for Signage
Investing in pandemic-related signage is an unexpected expense for many businesses, but CMS recently approved that senior care facilities can use Civil Money Penalty (CMP) funds for tent structures outside of the building or for barriers within the building. “In the past, facilities had to take a deep look at their budgets when buying signs,” explains Kelly. “CMS is trying to help facilities to do this the right way, allowing facilities to access funds up to $3,000 per facility. We are offering the Germ Screen© dividers, available on the website or by phone. These barriers can help to avoid airborne contamination from family to family.”
As part of a facility’s precautions in welcoming visitors, signage is a valuable investment. When paired with other preventative measures, signage can complement a facility’s procedures and plans to keep residents, staff, and visitors safe. Facilities should continue to adhere to the guidance of CMS and the CDC, but it’s also important to consider the conditions and risk factors in their own communities when developing visitation plans and when deciding whether to allow visitation at all.
Topics: Facility management , Featured Articles , Infection control , Medicare/Medicaid , Resident Care