Local care facility enters phase 1

Social distancing the new normal at area nursing home

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The Good Samaritan Society in De Smet is currently doing outdoor 6-foot social distance visiting. This is only being offered to families that live in Kingsbury County. Hand sanitation and masks are required and visitors are screened prior to being allowed to visit.

For those outside of Kingsbury County, virtual video calls are being conducted so residents and families are still able to visually connect with each other. Those outside of Kingsbury County are able to put in a special request, administrator Katlin Johnson and her team reviews and approve or deny. Otherwise, virtual video calls are being conducted.

Window visits are still allowed and encouraged for families in-between their outdoor visits or for those that live outside of the county. During the visit, the windows must remain closed, so families and the resident will often talk on the phone to hear better, while still being able to see each other.

They are allowing physicians, hospice staff, beauticians, barbers, clergy and any contracted maintenance into the building. At this time, the only family that would be allowed to visit indoors, is for residents who are actively passing away.

“Now that the residents have finally been able to get their hair done and see their loved ones, we are seeing their moods lifting. It was heartbreaking for all of us as staff to see the emotional and psycho-social toll this pandemic has had on those we serve, or as I like to call them, our family,” said Johnson.

Reopening process

Johnson stated that they are still considered to be in phase 1.

“According to the South Dakota Department of Health, we have to spend a minimum of 14 days in phase 1 and as long as there is no community spread and no facility positive cases within those 14 days, the center can move to phase 2,” Johnson explained.

“This is why it so important that we know what is going on in our county so we know whether or not we can request to move to phase 2, and then eventually phase 3. Phase 3 of the re-opening plan will be where we are at until the pandemic is declared to be over.”

Johnson said they are in no rush to move through these phases. She said they want to make sure that they are well prepared and that it is safe before moving to the next, less restrictive phase.

“Our families and residents have been very supportive and understanding of this, which helps,” Johnson said, “and residents and their families have been supportive and understanding.”

Johnson said some residents are participating in communal dining again, but since everyone must maintain a 6 ft social distance, there is not enough room for everyone to eat in the dining room. Those who eat in the dining room are ones that need some form of assistance or are at nutritional risk. They also consider those who need more of the social aspect of eating. The other residents are getting room trays for their meals.

Johnson said group activities have started up, but because they still have to observe social distancing and the residents must wear masks they are figuring out a rhythm for these activities.

“With all of these changes, we are always keeping in mind the residents’ rights, their quality of life, and their well-being. I really do believe we are doing the best we can with what we have been given,” Johnson said. “Everyone has pitched in, learning new skills and helping in areas they normally wouldn’t. The re-opening guidance on the South Dakota Department of Health website is titled “Back to Normal Nursing Home Reopening Plan”. We still have to find the normal in much of this, but we are taking steps and look forward to finding “normal” again, whatever that looks like post-pandemic.”

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