As a way to keep staff members and seniors safe from the omicron variant of COVID-19, area agencies, centers and homes that provide services for seniors have had to adapt.
“Right now we have very spaced out dining, we take turns in the dining room as opposed to having 60 people … enjoying their dinner, we might have 15 in the dining room at a time,” said Anne Dembski, chief operating officer at the Bradley Home in Meriden.
Along with that, Dembski said everyone that enters the home has to have their temperature checked, complete a health survey and be vaccinated, including a booster shot.
Staff members also have to be vaccinated and are tested every week.
“Once a week we’re having swabs up our noses to make sure we don’t have COVID,” Dembski said. “It’s not the lifestyle we want for our people, let’s put it that way.”
Gov. Ned Lamont this week issued an order requiring all visitors to nursing homes to be vaccinated or show proof of a negative test result. Visitors can take a rapid antigen test within 48 hours of visitation or a PCR test within the previous 72 hours.
At the Cheshire Senior Center, Stefanie Theroux, coordinator of senior services, said that all group programming has been moved to a digital platform during January and February and transportation services are on hold for the rest of January.
For members that do not have access to the internet or transportation, Theroux said they have been trying to expand telephone outreach services, including partnering with volunteers.
“However, we are still open to foot traffic, individual appointments and providing grab and go and curbside services,” Theroux said.
Linda Craig, owner and director of Always Best Care Senior Services in Wallingford, an agency certified by the National Association of Home Care, said COVID-19 has impacted the agency in a positive way.
“People don’t want to be in nursing homes or hospitals,” Craig said. “Those people decided to stay home and sought out care, so that’s the way Covid has impacted us.”
Craig said staffing has been an issue over the past six months.
“It’s a challenge right now but we’re able to help as many people as possible and we’re interviewing all the time,” Craig said.
At the Meriden Senior Center, Rick Liegl, senior affairs administrator, said the center has a large percentage of seniors that have been vaccinated, including the booster shot.
“We’re allowing people to ride the bus without spaces in between them,” Liegl said. “... So we haven’t had to make too many changes at this time because of the omicron (variant).”
Liegl said the meal capacity is about half of what it was before the virus.
“We are lucky that we have such a high percentage of seniors and members who are fully vaccinated, that’s made a big difference for us,” Liegl said. “... The meals that we serve here is very important because of the population we serve, so we do our best to ensure the safety of having that meal.”