Care home residents hunker down to safety

The second wave of COVID-19 transmission has forced the elderly residents of Government Care Home at Pulayanarkotta to hunker down to ride out this surge safely.

The first dose of COVID-19 vaccination has been administered to all 70 residents of the home, which has a sanctioned strength of 100.

New admissions to the home have been restricted on the directions of the Social Justice Department to prevent spread of infection among the elderly who are very vulnerable. Any emergency admission is made only on the directions of top department officials. Even then, a new resident has to go into isolation for 14 days and then get tested, says Home Superintendent Beena George.

Any mingling among residents in large groups is restricted. The residents are not exactly cooped inside all day – they can take a walk, sit out in the garden, or read, but only in small groups of two or three. Even the television has been switched off to prevent any mass interaction.

Since the residents are put up in rooms, they too prefer to limit interaction, she says.

The residents are not allowed visitors, unless there is any emergency. In such cases, visitors are allowed to meet the office staff. Mostly though, they are met by the staff at the portals of the home. Residents who have mobile phones can communicate with their family. This has been the practice for the past year, she says.

If the residents need to be taken to hospital for an emergency, then PPE kits are provided. The office staff are not allowed to come into contact with the residents; only the care staff can be near them.

The staff who work 14-day shifts and then take a break for the next 14 are required to get tested for COVID-19 before returning to the care home, Ms. George says.

Biju Mathew, State Head, HelpAge India, says no major issues have come to the organisation's notice as yet.

Standard operating procedures developed for old-age homes after the first wave of COVID-19 last year such as restricting entry of outsiders and curbs on home staff going outside are still being followed to check infection spread. With the second wave proving to be more devastating, the restrictions have to be followed more strictly so that the elderly remain isolated.

Mr. Mathew says they are also pushing for health staff to go to old-age homes and vaccinate the elderly as there are practical difficulties in transporting them en masse to a vaccination centre. Most homes, he says, have 30 to 40 residents on an average; some even have 100 or 150. However, they do not have enough staff to accompany the residents to a centre or the facilities for that.

Also, visiting crowded vaccination centres is fraught with risks. Hence, the importance of getting the elderly vaccinated at the homes itself is being stressed, he said.

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 5:42:00 AM |

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