We realize it may be difficult to see city leadership in discussions about slowly lifting restrictions in town, while our communities continue to have tight protocols. We appreciate the trust you have in Heritage Communities and our teams, knowing that no decision is made lightly. There are thorough discussions on every change, and while some strategies may be unpopular, please understand that they are made with the intention of keeping our residents and associates safe in unknown circumstances. Your support is what makes the mission behind Heritage United work – everyone coming together, even when challenging, for the benefit of others in our community.
In an effort to provide better clarity and understanding of recent guidelines, we wanted to talk through a few topics.
Since the first part of March, we’ve seen community activities transition from limitless attendees, to groups of 10 or less with six feet of distance between one another, to our current norm of in-room activities. We realize the psychological implications this has on our residents, as they have become used to regular engagement with one another. Our Life Enrichment teams are strategizing daily on ways to increase engagement alongside these current restrictions. We have some of the most creative and compassionate people working to ensure residents do not feel alone. While this change is difficult for some residents, the greater benefit is keeping our residents safe right now.
Recently, big box stores have announced guidelines on masks when visitors enter their buildings. Costco is requiring all guests to wear masks starting May 4, 2020 and Walmart is also recommending their usage. Heritage Communities' position is that all residents wear a mask when they come out of their apartment. Cloth masks are appropriate for residents to wear, as we communicated in an earlier message. But keep in mind, these are only to keep a resident's germs with themselves. Cloth masks, while helpful in reducing the spread of COVID-19, are not true personal protective equipment. Heritage Communities has purchased gator-style masks to be given to residents at no cost. If a resident would like one, they can see their Executive Director for more information. If a resident feels that wearing a mask outside of their apartment greatly affects their quality of life, or the resident has a challenging donning a mask because of oxygen, please talk to the Executive Director or any members of the healthcare team at their building to discuss options.
Some local governments has discussed opening salons in the very near future. Please know that, at this time, the salons will remain closed until we announce differently. While we realize having our salon re-open one day will be a welcomed sight, we are still only allowing essential visitors into our communities. The first non-essential visitors we want to see back in our buildings, is the return of family members visiting their loved ones. That remains a high priority, and we will share more information on this once a careful, and thorough plan has been developed. Please know that if a resident chooses to leave our community to get their hair done at a salon outside of our community, they are allowed to do so. However, they will need to quarantine in their apartment for 14 days upon their return. Our intention is not to make anyone feel punished for their decisions, it is truly an effort to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19. During the interim, before our salon reopens, our teams would be happy to discuss options related to hair washing and cutting, that could be done by our own associates. Please reach out to your Executive Director if you'd like to discuss those.
We have received questions about allowing someone to move in, when families are not allowed to visit. As we talk about essential visitors, we are referring to those who come and go in the community that are required for the health and wellbeing of our residents like our employees and hospice nurses. There’s another audience that is considered essential as well, and those are seniors who need the supportive environment of senior living to be safe. Our essential, core function of serving the aging population has not changed during this pandemic. Our approach and protocols to move ins, however, have changed. The move in process, including how, when and by whom someone moves in, has tightened significantly. New residents move into their apartment and immediately begin isolation, meaning they will not leave their apartment for the first 14 days, and our team members will use full personal protective equipment (PPE) when interacting with them. New residents are not classified as visitors, because they are not coming and going from our community. They enter the main doors one time and will stay in their apartment for 14 days. We are screening each resident prior to their move in, just as we do with our associates and other essential visitors.
We can imagine the frustration you may feel when local authorities are discussing looser restrictions, but you still can’t see your loved one in our community yet. Reuniting families is high on our priority list, and we are working through options as a team for when the time comes that the threat of COVID-19 can be greatly minimized. Thank you for your unwavering trust and support. We are committed to lightening limitations when it is safe to do so and are having weekly discussions on this topic with our Pandemic Planning Committee. We look forward to the days when hugging, visitors and group gatherings are possible. For now, your choices are making a positive impact in our community. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.