NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – More and more coronavirus deaths are being reported from New Mexico’s nursing homes and senior living facilities. So how is the state handling outbreaks in these vulnerable populations?
Given how contagious COVID-19 is, the elderly and people with underlying health conditions living in close proximity are especially at risk.
“Our role has been to do as much outreach as possible to not only with the facility staff who are there on the ground, but also to the residents,” explained Linnea Forsythe, the state’s Aging and Long-term Care Ombudsman.
New Mexico’s Aging and Long-term Services Department, along with the state’s Department of Health Improvement, or DHI, are working in conjunction to constantly communicate with living facilities to try and keep people safe.
“I think everybody is concerned about the effects of social isolation on the residents who are in nursing homes,” said Forsythe. “So I just wanna say, if you know someone who is in a nursing or assisted living facility, call them, write them a letter, they would love to hear from you.”
Multiple deaths have been reported from places like the Life Care Center in Farmington, and La Vida Llena in Albuquerque.
The state’s DHI team checks-in daily with state-licensed care facilities. If someone working or living in congregate setting tests positive for COVID-19, that facility is ordered to conduct weekly mass testing of everyone living and working there.
“There are a lot of measures in place, including how they do daily cleanings, how they’re sectioning off people when somebody does show positive,” explained Chris Burmeister, Director of the Department of Health Improvement.
He said in mid-March, federally certified surveyors visited all 71 nursing homes, 250 assisted living facilities and 46 ICF facilities in New Mexico, met with residents, and took a look at their infection control protocols.
An administrator for Advanced Health Care of Albuquerque said all of their staff wear full PPE and their residents are isolated in private rooms. They also do regular virtual and in-person walk-throughs with state health officials and are not accepting any visitors or new residents.
As for what the next year looks like for these longterm care facilities, state health officials say they are taking things day-by-day and discussing plans.
“We know there will be an end to this, I think that probably the biggest thing is family members engaging however they can, whether it’s telephonically, writing letters,” said Burmeister.
“Having facilities do more engagement with the residents, whether it’s even opening mail and reading it together,” Burmeister added. “That person-to-person contact is really crucial at these times, and it’s a day-to-day effort from everybody.”
The state’s Aging and Longterm Services program recently purchased and distributed 350 tablets across the state to connect residents of long term care facilities with their loved ones. Forsythe said those tablets have been crucial to check in on residents and help them feel less isolated.
“As we think about extending the visitor restrictions, I think we really have to think not only more creatively about how we as their advocates and loved ones can connect with them, but also how we’re able to provide telehealth both mental health and addressing their physical health as well,” said Forsythe.
The state DOH said they’re really focusing testing on longterm care facilities and essential workers, specially since asymptomatic carriers can spread the virus to others and temperature checks can only help catch some cases.
Knowing how contagious and potentially lethal the virus is to these high-risk populations is also why the staff is taking extra precautions, like wearing protective gear.
Advanced Health Care of Albuquerque said when they do start accepting new residents down the line, every new person will have to go into a 14-day quarantine and take a test for COVID-19.
Anyone with concerns about a resident in an assisted living or longterm care facility in New Mexico is urged to call the state Ombudsman advocates at 1-866-451-2901.
|# of positive cases in Patients at facility||# of COVID-19 related Deaths at facility|
|La Vida Llena, Albuquerque||28||16|
|Legacy Santa Fe||1||0|
|Life Care Farmington||33||25|
|Central Desert Behavior Health||14||0|
|Advanced Health Care of Albuquerque||10||0|
|Aztec Healthcare, Aztec||0||1|
|Wellbrook Rehabilitation Center, Farmington||0||1|
|Cedar Ridge Inn, Farmington||12||2|
|Red Rocks Care Center, Gallup||1||0|
|Little Sisters of the Poor, Gallup||8||0|
|Sundance Home (RamahCare)||2||0|
|Tohatchi Area Opportunity Services (TAOS), Tohatchi||5||0|
|Clayton Nursing and Rehab (Genesis)||3||0|
|The Village at Alameda||2||0|