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Idaho senior living and long-term care communities ramp up COVID-19 protocols for visitors

With guests allowed again under Stage 4 of Idaho's reopening plan, communities are working to make sure everyone stays healthy.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — With Idaho now in Stage 4 of the state's reopening plan, senior living facilities and long-term care communities are now allowed to relax their rules to allow visitors.

It’s not as simple as just opening the doors, however. The state has provided a long list of guidelines that facilities need to follow, such as continued COVID-19 testing, strict guidelines for visitors and comprehensive emergency protocols in case there is an outbreak.  

Ashley Taylor is the president and CEO of Veranda Senior Living facilities in Ada County. She says they welcome the new protocols.

“It adds a level of challenge to our communities, but we appreciate it. We are following it as much as we can and even above and beyond those standards,” Taylor said. “We run the risk, if somebody gets sick, they all get sick. So we are taking all of those extra precautions.”

Since the pandemic hit, Taylor says the staff at Veranda have tried to keep spirits up in their communities, but the truth is a lot of people miss their families and guests.

“It’s been so difficult. Mental health is a huge issue that we are facing right now. Maybe more than anything else, they need to see their families,” Taylor said.

While it is exciting that Veranda can allow visitors again, Taylor explains it will work much differently than in the past.

“We’ve setup what’s called our clean room at both of our communities. This is a scheduled visit for the families. This is a room that has all hard surfaces so we can clean it for 45-minute visits,” Taylor said.

The setup and segmented visits are not ideal, but keeping the community safe and healthy is the top priority, according to Taylor.

“We require all families to have their temperature taken, fill out a questionnaire, wash their hands and wear a face-mask in order to come visit,” Taylor said.

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Taylor knows scheduling families for the clean room visits will be a challenge. However, visitors have another option at Veranda as long as weather cooperates.

“Residents and families can also visit outside while following social distancing guidelines, keeping six feet apart," Taylor said. "Everyone has face masks on, we have the same temperature and screening requirements in place for outside visits."

Facilities across the Treasure Valley say they have very similar protocols in the works.

Taylor says those strict rules is what it will take to keep visitations possible.

“I do not see this changing anytime soon. In fact, I see us going back to full lock down as the winter months approach and flu season comes on board,” Taylor said.

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Until then, Taylor says a huge factor in continuing to allow visitors will be continued COVID-19 testing.

“We process those tests here. We partnered with Crush the Curve for all of our testing needs,” Taylor said.

Taylor explained that while an emphasis is on health and safety, they are also making sure that daily life remains enjoyable. Continued community events, like themed days and celebrations, have been a silver lining for the residents.

“The residents dress up, the staff dresses up. It’s like Halloween every Friday and we sing. I actually personally sing to the residents and we’ve become a family,” Taylor said. “We’ve had residents come up to me and tell me, we feel more like a family than we ever have. I think it’s because we are all trying to fill those voids.”

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