How MT nursing homes, assisted living facilities are dealing with COVID-19

Posted at 11:36 AM, May 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-04 13:36:15-04

HELENA — It’s a new reality at nursing homes and assisted living centers in Montana -- taking temperatures, before entering while trying to keep things “normal.”

Which is important, for elderly adults who suffer from dementia, they continue a normal routine, at Beehive Homes, as well as, keeping everything the same they have also added creative fun activities. However, wearing a mask is a way to keep the residents safe.

“So, to protect infection of our residents. 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,” Debbie Johnson who is a nurse and administrator at Beehive homes in Helena.

Even the masks offering some protection, they also face challenges with communications between 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.

As an extra step of precaution, visitors, are not allowed to come inside, which could lead to a feeling of disconnect with your loved one. Family members are encouraged to call or zoom loved ones currently in an assisted living facility or nursing home.

However, if there is a an concern or a gut feeling that something is wrong, Shelly Walten, who is the Activities Director at Beehive Homes in Helena, said, to pick up the phone and call the facility where your loved one is placed.

If that does not work for you, call an ombudsman -- such as the Montana Office of Aging.

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

Currently, ombudsman are unable to go inside a facility, and are only allowed to call the resident, due to COVID-19, restrictions.

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

There have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in any Beehive Assisted Living Facility homes in Montana, as of May 1, 2020. Anyone with concerns can contact the Montana Office of Aging at (406) 444-4077.