How Helena nursing homes and assisted living facilities are adapting following COVID-19

Posted at 10:28 AM, May 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 18:38:31-04

HELENA — Nursing homes face a new reality in the wake of COVID-19. From lockdowns to temperatures checks, strict controls and monitoring are needed to ensure resident's safety.

It is important for elderly adults who suffer from dementia to continue a normal routine.

At BeeHive Homes in Helena they are balancing the changes, with creative activities to keep residents engaged.

“You are coming from outside, and even though you do not have a temp, which is good, you still might be able to carry germs on you,” says nurse and administrator Debbie Johnson.

But there are challenges that come with basic safety precautions that are the new normal, like wearing a mask. Masks can create a communcation barrier between staff and residents.

“We use a lot of eyes, hand signals. You know, just happy movements and they do seem to pick up on it. But it’s a challenge with the mask on. They are not able to read your lips. They are not able to see if you are happy, sad, frowned, expressions. It means so much, and that’s the one thing we didn’t realize during this, " said Johnson.

BeeHive, like many care facilities, is currently doesn't allow visitors into their facility. That leaves some residents feeling disconnected from family and loved ones.

The staff encourages families to reach out through technology, like video chat, to stay in touch. Activites Director Shelly Walten adds that if someone is concerned for a family member at an assisted living facility, they should contact the facility directly. If they have trouble reaching a nursing home or care facility they should contact the Montana Office on Aging for assistance.

“We are able to call the facility and advocate on behalf of the resident, in order to make sure that resident's rights are protected,” said Shellye Lee, who is an ombudsman, and responsible for long-term care for the Western Montana area, Region Six Agency on Aging.

COVID-19 restrictions mean ombudsmen are currently unable to go inside a facility and are only allowed to call residents.

“Remember, they are your parents, your grandparents. They still need to be checked on. And let them know that you love them and we are all going to get through this together,” said Walten.

There have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 IN any BeeHive Assisted Living Facility homes in Montana, as of Friday, May 1.

If you have a concern, call Montana Office of Aging at 406-444-4077.