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The coronavirus will continue to affect the way we live for months and possibly years to come, and the elderly has proven to be one of the groups most vulnerable to the disease.
This puts extra pressure on retirement estates to keep residents safe by strict adherence to prescribed lockdown measures, while reassuring them of swift assistance in case of emergency.
Exclusive retirement lifestyle estates do not always have medical facilities on their premises but in the case of De Plattekloof in Tygerberg Hills in Cape Town, with the Panorama MediClinic 1,5km down the road, access to emergency care is close.
Like many other retirement estates, De Plattekloof has its own strict Covid-19 action plan in place and it’s following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) prescribed procedures. The estate’s clinic also offers appointment services where residents can be examined by doctors.
We look at what’s being done at other retirement estates countrywide:
Evergreen Lifestyle Villages, SA
Evergreen Health, which forms part of Evergreen Lifestyle Villages, has prepared its villages for any unforeseen medical crisis such as Covid-19, says Evergreen Health MD Elize Porter.
The Evergreen Lifestyle Villages were locked down even before the official nationwide lockdown and residents at the care centres are not allowed to receive any visitors.
The majority of nurses and carers are being accommodated on site in the villages during this time. Everyone who enters the village offices undergoes rigorous daily screening in keeping with workplace health and safety regulations. Those with high temperatures are referred for testing by Evergreen Health nurses.
The village management has built-in support structures that include assistance with shopping for groceries and other supplies such as pharmacy items to protect residents from exposure at shops.
A counselling hotline has been established to provide mental health support to the residents of all the villages. A team of volunteers also conducts daily check-in telephone calls to residents who may require assistance in alleviating loneliness and possible mood disorders.
In addition, nursing staff check on those residing in the villages regularly to assist with any home healthcare procedures and daily routine activities.
Evergreen Lifestyle management prepares regular messages that are communicated to residents. These include updates on the virus, but also advice for a healthy lifestyle during lockdown.
Collaboration with two emergency medical assistance companies offer further reassurance to residents, as ambulances are dispatched immediately in case of a medical crisis.
Central Developments, Gauteng
Central Developments’ retirement estates are managed by CSi Property Management. To help combat the spread of the virus, access to all its estates is restricted and no visitors or deliveries are allowed. Residents observe the lockdown regulations, whereas employees wear protective gear and have their temperature scanned twice a day.
All Central Developments’ estates have frail-care facilities. Although these are not considered to be medical facilities, they’re prepared for dealing with Covid-19 cases. Each estate’s nurse monitors residents’ health. Should it be suspected that a resident has contracted Covid-19, the estate’s doctor will test them and, upon return to the premises, the village nurse will ensure that the patient and anyone else they’ve been in contact with self-isolate for 14 days.
Residents in self-isolation can contact the village nurse on an emergency number at any time. Meals from the restaurant, groceries and medication will be delivered to the front door or porch of their unit. The nurse and general manager will also check on them regularly to ensure they are coping. Should their health deteriorate, the nurse will arrange for them to be taken to hospital.
The frail-care residents’ temperatures are taken twice a day and they’re checked frequently for any other symptoms of the virus. These facilities are sanitised regularly. Should a frail-care resident display symptoms of Covid-19, the same procedure is followed as for residents of the rest of the estate.
The general manager often updates all the residents on the estate’s Covid-19 status and is available to address residents’ concerns directly.
Mount Edgecombe Retirement Village, KZN
Because its residents are considered high risk, infection prevention and control (IPC) protocols were created and are updated often in line with current guidelines. These protocols deal with staff and residents of the care centre as well as the independent village.
Staff are trained on the nature of Covid-19, including early symptom recognition. Their temperatures are taken daily. During lockdown, all employees stay on the premises and healthcare staff work 10-day shifts to minimise contact with residents.
The health status of new residents is assessed, and physical distancing is practised while taking care not to contribute to feelings of isolation. Twice daily, all residents’ temperatures are taken and those with a fever or respiratory symptoms are reported to management.
If a resident is suspected to have contracted Covid-19, they’ll be isolated in a single room, complying with all IPC practices. A clinical assessment will be conducted, and severe cases transferred to an acute health facility. If that’s not necessary, the patient will be isolated and cared for at the Totalcare facility.
The village nurse will continue providing home nursing services and check-ins during this time. This service is essential to ensure the physical and psychological health of all village or estate residents by checking for any symptoms of disease and combatting feelings of isolation.
As the overall wellbeing of every staff member and resident is important, care will be taken to provide healthcare while maintaining a calm and comfortable environment.
MSP Developments, Western Cape
Medwell SA follows the proposed guidelines and policies recommended by the WHO and the Department of Health to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“We’re ready to manage patients with suspected infections as well as those who’ve been diagnosed,” says MSP project liaison manager Werner Scheffer. “We follow all general hygiene measures, which include the roll-out of self-quarantine and self-isolation in a doable way.”
The workers at these two retirement estates are orientated on the impact of the virus and consulted and screened regularly. They’re also provided with personal protection equipment for use when coming into contact with patients who have overt Covid-19 symptoms.