April 06, 2020
State Latest News | Coronavirus | Bangor Metro | Christopher Cassidy | Today's Paper

Elder care facilities tighten restrictions as coronavirus cases increase

Nina Mahaleris | The Penobscot Times
Nina Mahaleris | The Penobscot Times
The Westgate Center for Rehabilitation and Alzheimer’s Care, a part of the National HealthCare Associates, will only allow visitors between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. or 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., as a response to COVID-19.

As of Monday morning, March 16, test results show that 12 Maine residents have tested presumptive positive for the coronavirus. Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. You can support this mission by purchasing a digital subscription.

As Maine residents grapple with the first couple presumptive positive cases of COVID-19, long-term care facilities around the state are preparing for the worst — some even banning visitors entirely, except in end-of-life situations.

The National HealthCare Associates, which operates long-term care and rehabilitation centers in seven northeastern states — including eight facilities in Maine — have limited visiting hours at many of their locations in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York.

The facilities will only allow visitors 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 4-6 p.m., according to The National HealthCare Associates, which runs the Westgate Center for Rehabilitation and Alzheimer’s Care in Bangor.

The organization also operates the Eastside Center for Health and Rehabilitation in Bangor, the Brewer Center for Health and Rehabilitation as well as five other facilities in Augusta, Yarmouth, Kennebunk, Norway and Bath.

The company is restricting visits to its facilities nationwide until further notice, except in end of life situations, but none of its facilities have any cases of COVID-19 as of March 16, according to its website.

[VA suspends nursing home visitation to protect veterans from the coronavirus]

Jason Moore, the Westgate Center’s administrator, did not respond to numerous requests for comments on whether the facility intends to restrict visitors altogether if more cases are found in Maine.

As COVID-19 poses a particular threat to older adults with weakened immune systems, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that nursing homes discourage visitors and screen those who do enter, even before the virus is found in their community.

While it’s up to individual facilities to set their own prevention protocols using guidance from the CDC, many have limited or restricted non-essential visits with the exception of hospice care, said Nadine Grosso, the vice president and director of communications at Maine Health Care Association.

Around the state, some facilities have already started tightening these protocols. The Lincoln Home and Harbor Cottage, a retirement community and assisted-living facility in Newcastle, announced on Thursday that residents would be asked not to leave the property, unless for a medical appointment.

[Do you have questions about the coronavirus? Ask us here.]

They added that visitors aren’t allowed in the facility, either, and that a staff member had called residents’ families to let them know of the new restrictions.

“Hang in with us. As our parents and grandparents taught us, this too shall pass,” the organization posted on their website beneath the announcement.

National and state health officials continue to emphasize that people with loved ones in long-term care should avoid in-person visits to prevent spreading the virus.

“Until we get this under control, our new guidance, as of today, is to family members, to loved ones: Don’t visit the facilities. Instead, come up with an alternate way to communicate, Mark Parkinson, president of the American Health Care Association said on Tuesday, March 10.

At Stillwater HealthCare in Bangor, visitors have to be let into an entryway by staff for a health screening before they are admitted inside the building. One staff member said the facility won’t allow visitors who have a temperature above 100.4 degrees.

A health screening process for visitors and staff has also been set up at the entrance of Ross Manor, to prevent exposing residents to the virus. A staff member conducting the screenings said they’ve had to turn away one visitor this week who had a sore throat.

Watch: What older adults need to know about COVID-19


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