Visitation Update – 10.19.2020

  Balancing COVID-19 safety and the well-being of the individuals to whom we provide services continues to be a critical priority. Utilizing current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the MN Department of Health (MDH), and the Department of Human Services (DHS), ACR recommends limiting visitors to those that are essential for health and emotional well-being. ACR is committed to help persons who use services make informed decisions about visits that take into account the risks and benefits to the person who uses services and to others with whom they interact at their home, work, or community.

We urge each person/guardian to keep in mind the needs and vulnerability of everyone in the home, and to consider the safest options to visit their loved ones which continue to be video visits, phone calls, window visits, and socially-distanced outdoor visits.

It continues to be ACR’s strong preference that visits happen outdoors, offsite, or via technology. However, we recognize that residents of ACR have the right to visitors. If a guardian feels that they must visit with their person inside the ACR home, ACR has the following requirements and preferences.

 Requirements for visitors:

  • Visitors will not be allowed in if they have been directed by their physician or MDH to self-isolate due to exposure or symptoms.
  • All visitors must be screened and will be turned away if they are ill.

•     Visitors must wash or sanitize their hands and must wear a mask in accordance with the governor’s mandate.

•     Limit interactions to the person you are visiting. Visitors may not interact with other residents in the home unless that person’s guardian has given consent.

Preferences for visitors: 

  • Please call the home prior to the visit so staff are prepared to screen and can prepare a space for the visit.
  • Consider which friends or family might be most essential in preserving the physical or mental health of the person receiving services and limit visiting to that person or persons.
  • Please strive to maintain social distance of 6 feet and refrain from hugs or close face to face communication.
  • If the guardian determines a visit must take place inside the home, we would strongly prefer that the visit happen in their person’s bedroom or in a space that can be closed off from the rest of the house (such as the office or other common room with a door that closes.)

•     If any residents in the home are in isolation due to COVID exposure or a COVID positive test, we will recommend that visitors postpone their visit to the home.

•     Following an indoor visit from anybody, staff will disinfect any room(s) that they were in.

•     If desired, all of the families in a house can a arrange meeting to set up house rules that they all agree on.

With regard to visits off-site, upon return to the ACR home, we would ask the person receiving services to wash their hands and remove their used mask for infection control purposes. Social distancing and mask use by the person receiving services (if able and willing) in common areas of the home will be encouraged. If there are heightened concerns about vulnerability to possible infection in the home, residents can self-quarantine to protect their housemates or themselves.

 

Guardian Update: July 20, 2020

COVID-19 Training for Residents of ACR Homes and Arthur’s Senior Care

As required by the Minnesota Dept. of Health, we have prepared training for residents of ACR Homes and Arthur’s Senior Care that addresses the following areas:

  • What Is COVID-19?
  • How does COVID-19 spread?
  • How to prevent the spread of COVID-19
  • Highlights from the ACR Homes and Arthur’s Senior Care Emergency Preparedness Plan
    • Screening and policies for persons receiving services exhibiting signs or symptoms of COVID-19
    • Social distancing
    • Food preparation and meals
    • Ventilation
    • Visitors
    • Transportation

If you would like this training for yourself (for those who are self-guardians living at ACR or Arthurs) or for the person for whom you are the guardian, please notify your program director and we will have a staff person give the information to the resident and/or explain it as needed.

 

Guardian Update: July 13, 2020.

 Turning the dial on day services for adults with disabilities

On Sunday, July 12, the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) sent out a press release announcing the decision to “turn the dial” to allow day programs to begin reopening to provide day services for adults with disabilities. To open they must conform to guidelines limiting capacity and duration and requiring clients to participate in screening, wearing masks, increased hand-washing, and other measures to mitigate the potential transmission of COVID-19.

Within these guidelines, we expect that the return to day program will be a gradual transition, perhaps over several months. The feedback we have received so far from guardians indicates that many will hold off on returning to day program for a while longer.  Therefore at ACR Homes we expect to keep our staffing levels steady in the upcoming weeks and months as this transition takes place.

In keeping with DHS directives, the decision whether or not to return to day program will require a team discussion. To that end, ACR’s program directors will be reaching out to facilitate those discussions in coming weeks. For persons who choose to return to day program, the discussion will include how to mitigate risk. Day programs must also work out transportation plans, and establish and implement a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan.

You may recall that ACR has also developed a COVID Preparedness Plan which was outlined in the Guardian Update from June 30; a full copy of ACR’s plan is available to you upon request.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact your ACR Program Director.

 

Guardian Update: June 30, 2020

ACR Homes and Arthur’s Senior Care COVID-19 Preparedness Plan–6/29/2020

As required by the Minnesota Dept. of Health ACR Homes and Arthur’s Senior Care have  a formal COVID-19 Preparedness Plan that summarizes our policies and procedures relating to COVID-19 in the following areas:

  • Hygiene and source control
  • Cleaning and disinfecting
  • Screening and policies for staff exhibiting signs or symptoms of COVID-19
  • Screening and policies for residents exhibiting signs or symptoms of COVID-19
  • Social distancing
  • Food preparation and meals
  • Ventilation
  • Visitors
  • Transportation
  • Communication and training about the plan

If you’d like a copy of the plan please notify your program director.

 

Guardian Update: June 16, 2020 

Informed Consent relating to COVID-19 Risks and Community Outings: As you know, the most recent interim guidance from the Minnesota Dept. of Health and DHS specific to group homes continues to recommend to “limit visitors to the home to only those who provide an essential service (e.g., home care, hospice).” ACR continues to support this guidance in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our homes. At the same time, DHS has urged that providers provide clear communication regarding risks and ways to support the health and safety we support, while balancing a person’s freedom of choice.

To that end, we are asking all self-guardians and guardians of residents of ACR Homes to review and sign a Notice of Informed Consent, COVID-19 Risks to Self and Others from Interacting with the Community acknowledging the potential risks related to community outings, ACR’s efforts to mitigate those risks, and authorizing whether the person receiving services may or may not go into the community at this time. This Notice of Informed Consent will be emailed/ mailed to all guardians.

 

Guardian Update: June 4, 2020 

Day programs:  DHS is not yet allowing day programs to open their site-based services for people who live in congregate care settings in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. We are hearing that they are beginning to offer limited in-community day program services. If your loved one/ward receives a proposal for in-community day program services, we would urge the person’s team to weigh the benefit of participation with the individual’s vulnerability as well as the potential impact on and vulnerability of housemates. Guidance from the Minnesota Dept. of Health and DHS recommends that persons who choose to participate in day program services be encouraged to implement steps to reduce the risk of disease transmission such as wearing a mask while at day program, showering and changing clothes immediately upon return to the home, practicing social distancing and thorough handwashing both at day program and at home, and wearing a mask in common areas of the home.

Visiting: The most recent interim guidance from the Minnesota Dept. of Health and DHS specific to group homes continues to recommend to “limit visitors to the home to only those who provide an essential service (e.g., home care, hospice).” ACR continues to support this guidance in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our homes. At the same time, DHS urges that providers need to support health and safety, while balancing a person’s freedom of choice, including being able to see who they want to see. We expect regulatory authorities will continue to change these guidelines.

We would urge each resident’s family/guardian to keep in mind the needs and vulnerability of everyone in the home, and to consider their safest options to visit their loved ones which continue to be video visits, phone calls, and window visits. If in-person visits are insisted upon, some safer alternatives would include having all visitors wear masks (and residents, too, if possible) and meeting outside on the patio or deck, or going for a walk in the neighborhood or at a nearby park while maintaining at least 6 feet apart. Another alternative option would be for ACR staff to coordinate driving the person to see friends or family but staying within the vehicle. We would urge that visits be limited to only non-overnight stays and with limited numbers of people and only with those who are able to maintain social distance; for example it may be difficult for young children to remember social distancing rules.

After a visit off-site, upon return to the group home, we would ask the person receiving services to help ensure other residents and staff remain safe by immediately showering and changing clothes, and also practicing social distancing and handwashing for infection control in the home and wearing a mask in common areas of the home when possible. If there are heightened concerns about vulnerability to possible infection in the home, residents can self-quarantine to protect their housemates or themselves.

We would like to limit visitors to the home to only essential visits. All visitors would be required to complete COVID screening assessments, wear masks, wash hands, and limit themselves to a designated visiting area such as the person’s room. Any visitors who fail the COVID screening will not be admitted to the home. Guidance from the Minnesota Dept. of Health continues to point out that the greatest risk for spreading COVID-19 is when anyone leaves and then returns to a facility. Obviously, if a resident or household member is in isolation or quarantine because of a known infection or exposure, visitation to the home should be postponed until individuals have been cleared of infection or have completed their quarantine period.

 

Guardian Update: May 21, 2020, 4:30pm

Enhanced PPE use starting this week

You’ll see that staff are now wearing surgical masks (with a cloth mask over the surgical mask when possible) as well as goggles. This heightened PPE is in response to changes and recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) in order to help avoid having large numbers of staff, who are otherwise well, being quarantined due to unprotected exposure.

Guidance from MDH indicates that whenever a staff or a resident tests positive for COVID-19, we must complete risk assessments of all staff who worked with that person starting 48 hours prior to the start of that person’s symptoms/testing to determine whether there was a low, medium or high risk of exposure to the virus. If a resident ends up testing positive and staff have worked with them without wearing surgical masks and goggles, they are automatically going to be placed in the medium or high risk exposure category. That means they will likely be unable to work for 14 days even if they don’t have symptoms and even if they test negative. Therefore, if 10 different staff worked in the home in a two day time period (2 AM staff, 2 PM staff, and an AW staff each day), we could potentially lose 10 staff for 14 days, which would obviously be difficult for everyone.  We need to keep familiar staff able to work with our residents.  Staff who are wearing a surgical mask and goggles are in a low risk category due to this extra protection, and can therefore continue to work. Since we need staff to continue providing care for our residents, having staff wear masks and goggles helps us ensure that residents will have familiar house staff working in all of our homes.

Additional measures we’ve already taken to protect residents and staff

You already know about many of the changes we’ve implemented at ACR and Arthur’s homes in recent months to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We thought it would be reassuring to see an actual list of what we’ve been doing to support the health and well-being of everyone in our homes:

  • A team of administrative staff have been working on sourcing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment including masks, goggles, isolation gowns and gloves) since February to ensure that our staff have what they need. Volunteers rallied to sew over 1300 cloth masks for staff as well as isolation gowns. We continue to work to ensure a strong supply of PPE for each of our homes.
  • Beginning in March, shortly after community spread was announced in Minnesota, we implemented enhanced handwashing and disinfection/cleaning procedures.
  • A screening app and written instructions were implemented in March and all staff began doing temperature and symptom screenings prior to every shift.
  • When day programs closed in March, we also restricted all non-essential resident outings and all visitors, non-essential staff and contractors in the home in order to limit potential exposure. At the same time we revved up our creativity to provide interesting and fun ideas for residents to stay active and connected.
  • Cloth masks for source control were provided in late March and staff were directed to wear them on shift.
  • ACR has provided several training videos for staff including a general training on COVID 19 and PPE use, a more specific training on using PPE in the home, training on laundering guidelines for washable PPE, and training on N95 use for homes with aerosolizing procedures.
  • Instructions on these procedures have been conveyed to all staff in the home beginning in March in written Sharepoint announcements, posters, video trainings, staff meetings, and direct instruction from case manager nurses and program directors. We continue to update our instructions and training as guidelines are revised.
  • Staff with symptoms have been prohibited from working and encouraged to be tested, and they have not been allowed to work until either they have negative test results or until at least 10 days following first symptoms AND 3 days after fever is resolved without medication and respiratory symptoms have improved, in accordance with guidelines from the CDC and MDH.
  • If residents have shown symptoms or tested positive, we have immediately implemented the use of full PPE, including surgical masks, goggles, isolation gowns and gloves, as well as N95 masks in homes with aerosolizing procedures as directed by MDH.
  • When a staff or resident has tested positive, we have conducted risk assessments for any staff who had contact with the COVID positive individual. Based on those assessments, we have followed MDH guidelines for proper response to minimize risk including asking staff to self-quarantine.
  • When a staff or resident has tested positive, we have provided information and opportunities for the rest of the staff to get tested.
  • When a staff or resident has tested positive, we have had all residents in the home tested.
  • When a resident has shown symptoms, we have immediately worked to get them and the rest of the residents tested.

There will no doubt continue to be adjustments to our procedures as new data regarding COVID-19 infections results in changes in guidelines from the CDC and MDH. We’ll continue to do everything we can to stay on top of recommendations for best practices.

 A Fun Story about Deb Nygaard, ACR’s Director of Development

Many of you have worked with Deb Nygaard over the years. We thought you’d enjoy this recent blog that does a fabulous job of capturing Deb’s experience at ACR!  https://acrhomes.com/30-years-of-building-acr-homes-not-a-day-goes-by-im-not-filled-with-gratitude/

 

Guardian Update: May 20, 2020, 5:30pm

DHS puts day program plans on hold

Commissioner Jodi Harpstead of the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) announced today DHS and the Minnesota Department of Health have identified two important health and safety considerations they have not been able to mitigate in order to open day services for people with disabilities. As a result, day programs will not be opening at this time.

Their first and greatest concern is the recent number of positive COVID-19 cases in group homes for people with disabilities. Commissioner Harpstead writes, “While we are trying to slow the spread of COVID-19 in group homes, it would be a mistake to bring people together into day centers every day and send them back to their homes potentially exposed to the virus.”

A secondary concern is the increased risk of COVID-19 when individuals have more, closer and longer exposures to people who are COVID-19 positive. Commissioner Harstead explained, “We are just beginning to understand that another risk factor in contracting COVID-19 is the length of time we are exposed to people who are positive…Day services facilities have people interacting with each other for 6 hours a day. If anyone shares a cohort with a COVID-19 positive colleague, their risk of contracting the virus is greater.“

Commissioner Harpstead concluded, “based on the best health advice we have…it would be too risky to re-open day centers at this time. While we understand the many challenges this creates for you and the people you serve, protecting the health and safety of vulnerable Minnesotans is our first priority.”

 

Guardian Update: May 18, 2020, 10am 

Holding off on return to day program, family gatherings

In light of the fact that testing availability has improved but is still far from being easily available, we are asking all guardians of ACR residents to hold off on sending their loved one/ward to a day program setting even if the day program is indicating that is an option for that person. Even if your person is not deemed in the “highly vulnerable” category, there’s a very good chance that their housemates are.

We know that the vulnerable people we support at ACR are eager to get back to their day program environments and to see people that they miss, but we have seen an uptick in positive COVID-19 tests among our staff as well as for a resident. Fortunately none of them are seriously ill at this point, but the increase has definitely caught our attention and we feel the need to continue to be extremely careful until testing is readily available and test results are received much more quickly.

For the same reason, even though Gov. Walz’s latest “Stay Safe” order will allow gatherings of 10 people or fewer beginning May 18, we are asking that you hold off on including your loved-one/ward in such gatherings.

Guidance from the Minnesota Dept. of Health continues to point out that the greatest risk for spreading COVID-19 is when anyone leaves and then returns to a facility. The most recent interim guidance specific to group homes continues to recommend to “limit visitors to the home to only those who provide an essential service (e.g., home care, hospice).”

 

Guardian Update: May 14, 2020, 5 PM 

Visitor Restrictions Continue

Last night, Minnesota’s Governor Walz revised the “Stay at Home” order to a “Stay Safe” order. Under the Stay Safe order certain restrictions will ease a bit starting Monday, May 18, but restrictions relating to congregate care settings will be continuing for some time. Federal and state guidelines from the CDC, the Minnesota Dept. of Health and DHS continue to recommend restricting all visitors and non-essential healthcare personnel in congregate care settings including group homes in an effort to protect residents and limit the spread of COVID-19 to those who are the most vulnerable. As a result, restrictions on visitors will remain in place for ACR Homes and Arthur’s Senior Care; visitors are not allowed in ACR or Arthur’s homes other than those visits that are medically necessary.

We recognize how challenging this is for both the residents of ACR and Arthur’s homes and for their loved ones. At the same time, we are hearing strong support from many guardians and family members for our efforts to protect everyone by restricting visitors. We continue to receive feedback from many families that they trust us to keep their loved ones as safe and happy as possible in view of the potential impact of COVID-19 on the people we support. “Social distancing” is the one thing we can all do to protect those who are most vulnerable. Thank you for all of your creative efforts to continue to stay in touch with your loved ones from a distance. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation as we work together to support the health and safety of everyone at ACR.

Day Programs

We are unclear if the new Stay Safe order will allow day programs to open or not.  At a minimum, day programs seem inconsistent with the Stay Safe order which only allows groups of 10 or less to gather.  Even if they are allowed to open, we have serious health and safety concerns about the people we serve attending those types of environments at this stage of the pandemic. We hope that there will be official guidance very soon and we will update this page again as soon as possible.

Creative activities for residents while staying at home

Staff are working hard to keep everyone happy, entertained and connected even as we stay at home and take precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19. Our team of employees has gone above and beyond to maintain the usual routines while creating fun diversions. In that spirit, here’s a fun overview of some of the entertainment they’ve helped stage so far.

https://acrhomes.com/activities-galore-acr-residents-entertained-on-site-during-covid-19/

 

Guardian Update: April 30, 2020, 4:30PM

Visitor Restrictions Continuing

We are all eager for things to get back to “normal”, but it is clear that our present restrictions will be continuing for some time. Governor Walz announced today that he is extending a statewide stay-at-home order to at least May 18, with incremental opening of curbside retail business. Federal and state government guidelines restricting visitors to licensed residential care facilities remain unchanged in order to protect residents and limit the spread of COVID-19 to those who are most vulnerable. This means that restrictions on visitors will remain in place for ACR Homes and Arthur’s Senior Care; visitors are not allowed in ACR or Arthur’s homes other than those visits that are medically necessary.

We realize this is challenging for both the residents of ACR and Arthur’s homes and for their loved ones. At the same time, we are aware of other providers who have had multiple infections in their homes. “Social distancing” is the one thing we can all do to protect those who are most vulnerable and limit the spread of COVID-19. We are hearing feedback from many families that they trust us to keep their loved ones as safe and happy as possible. We are so grateful to see ACR and Arthur’s staff continue to work hard every day to do just that.

We appreciate your understanding and cooperation as we work together to support the health and safety of everyone at ACR. Thank you for all of your creative efforts to continue to stay in touch from a distance and let your loved ones know that you are thinking of them!

 

Update: April 8, 2020, 4PM