The COVID-19 pandemic shutdown was hard on everyone, but those in elder care were hit particularly hard as they had to continue operations while caring for a particularly vulnerable population.
One Pennsylvania senior care giver, Country Meadows Retirement Communities, which has nine locations in Central Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley and Maryland, was recently honored for the innovative way it worked to protect not only its own residents, but seniors from other communities and helped to save lives.
Country Meadows has received the 2022 Best Practices Award from the Pennsylvania Assisted Living Association for the organization’s creation of a Community Health Support Center at its Mechanicsburg campus during the COVID pandemic.
The dedicated center took in seniors from locations such as Allentown, Bethlehem, Wyomissing and Forks Township who tested COVID-positive and provided a place for those individuals to recover in a safe space with specially trained staff prior to returning home.
Meredith Mills, president and CEO of Country Meadows said the staff in their communities knew something needed to be done to care for the ailing seniors, while protecting others from contracting the virus.
“We knew there had to be an environment to keep those infected separate,” Mills said. “We decided to create a dedicated building where we could move patients from other facilities to be cared for by specially trained staff.”
She said the Mechanicsburg location had the advantage that it had a separate space that could be blocked off by a wall they had constructed to isolate it.
“It was completely closed off from everything else. It was completely standalone with its own entrance, exits, laundry, supplies and offices,” she explained.
The center also employed telehealth whenever possible to limit the number of caregivers onsite and lessen transmission risk.
Other precautions included the use of electrostatic disinfection of common areas and installing a bipolar ionization system for the HVAC system.
While the original plan was to care for the communities’ own residents, the effort grew.
“It quickly became clear that the need for a safe place for people to recover from COVID-19 prior to returning home went well beyond Country Meadows’ needs,” said Mills. “We opened the center to seniors from other personal care facilities as well as community members to help people make a safe transition home. The center established Country Meadows as a valuable resource with other senior living providers as well as hospital partners.”
The dedicated space wasn’t the only thing Country Meadows was honored for.
Once Country Meadows successfully launched the center, staff were able to add another service, offering monoclonal antibodies (mAb) infusion.
The mAb treatment was created to reduce severity of symptoms in those infected by the COVID-19 virus.
It works by imitating natural defenses instead of waiting for the body to mount its own response, attaching to and entering human cells.
Mills said she knows of no other senior care facilities that were able to offer the infusions onsite.
She credited partnerships with Seniority Health and Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center for helping make the life-saving infusions possible
“The people who received the monoclonal antibodies were much less likely to die from the virus than those who didn’t,” said Mills. “The treatment was not widely available to the general public due to the difficulty in setting up the infusion process. Thanks to our partnerships, we were able to provide this lifesaving resource that other facilities could not provide.”
A state grant through Penn State Health also helped Country Meadows provide the specialized care.
The center remained open for approximately one year through summer of 2021 and served 186 individuals.
PALA’s Best Practices award recognizes Personal Care and Assisted Living communities who create innovative programs or unique approaches to provide the best services possible to its residents, co-workers, guests as well as the local community.a