Local senior living facilities taking steps to protect elders, a group that’s especially vulnerable to coronavirus

County commissioners have known about the long-term care facilities cluster since Friday, but the information has been kept from the media for reasons unexplained.

Note: The Shawnee Mission Post is making all coverage of the coronavirus pandemic accessible to non-subscribers. (If you value having a local news source covering the situation in our community, we hope you’ll consider subscribing here).

Senior living facilities and retirement homes in northern Johnson County are taking extra precautions against the pandemic following guidance from the state and federal government.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made clear for weeks that the elderly are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, Gov. Laura Kelly said Monday that Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Laura Howard and her team are moving quickly to make sure Kansas facilities are strictly adhering to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid’s latest guidance for nursing homes.

The guidelines “apply to any facility across the state that houses the elderly,” KDADS public information officer Cara Sloan-Ramos said.

Below are the lastest federal guidelines:

  • Restrict all visitors, except “for compassionate care such as end-of-life situations” (effective immediately)
  • Restrict all volunteers, nonessential healthcare staff, other staff such as barbers
  • Cancel all group activities and communal dining
  • Actively screen residents and healthcare staff for fever and respiratory symptoms

“I understand the vital importance of keeping nursing home residents connected with their loved ones,” Howard said in a release this week. “However, the rapid spread of COVID-19 through visitors and healthcare workers — as well as nursing home residents’ high risk — has made it necessary to restrict all nonessential visitation in order to protect the health and safety of residents.”

In addition to nursing home facilities, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Lee Norman said in the release that “other state licensed residential facilities” are also encouraged to revisit their screening, visitation and activity protocols.

Lakeview Village, a retirement community in Lenexa, is among the local senior living communities taking swift action to protect residents.

Robbie Clausen, Lakeview Village president and chief executive officer, said Lakeview is following guidelines from the CDC, CMS, KDHE and the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment. Lakeview asked all family members and loved ones to refrain from visiting and are instead encouraging them to use alternative forms of communication such as Skype or FaceTime, Clausen said.

“Yesterday [Sunday], I went around and spoke with residents in our dining rooms and they understand what we’re having to go through — it’s tough, but they’re understanding at this point in time,” Clausen said.

The retirement community is also screening anybody who enters, having them fill out forms asking if they’ve had any signs of symptoms and other COVID-19 specific questions, Clausen said. Additionally, Lakeview is holding management meetings to ensure everyone has the tools and communication they need, he said.

If someone does test positive for COVID-19 at Lakeview, Clausen said there are infection control protocols already in place. Isolation protocols, similar to those from other viruses that have been around, are built into Lakeview’s healthcare system, he said.

“We are communicating to our residents and staff pretty much on a daily basis,” Clausen said. “[We are] emphasizing hand washing techniques and stuff like that — we’re trying to prevent, prevent, prevent.”

The parent company of Prairie Village’s Claridge Court, Lifespace Communities Inc., released updated guidelines for all its facilities Tuesday afternoon. There are no diagnosed cases of COVID-19 at any Lifespace Communities facilities, but the company is implementing the following changes to comply with guidance from the CDC, CMS and state health departments:

  • Suspension of all communal dining at all venues and all levels of living, with free meal delivery and meal pick-up for residential living residents.
  • All residents, staff members asked to practice social distancing.
  • Cancellation of all large group activities for staff members and residents
  • Some community activities (salons, swimming pools, fitness centers) in residential living will remain open as residents practice social distancing.
  • All communities closed to visitors with some exceptions, found here. Screenings and temperature checks will be conducted for approved visitors.

Despite multiple attempts, a representative from Lifespace Communities could not be reached for this story.