April 8, 2020 - Like everyone else, the
coronavirus is very much on the minds of Jo Lucke and Rhondia Grant. Unlike most of
us, as administrators of the Southeast Georgia Health System
Senior Care Centers in Brunswick and St. Marys, they face a greater challenge. Both are part
of a team working tirelessly to protect and keep residents at the centers
happy and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re doing everything possible to reassure our residents
and their families,” says Lucke, administrator of the Senior Care
Center-Brunswick. “We had already implemented the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention CDC guidelines before they were officially announced.”
Residents of both centers benefit from Lucke’s service on the Georgia
Health Care Association Emergency Preparedness Committee. As a board member,
she was among the first to receive the latest information for dealing
The Senior Care Centers take numerous steps to protect elderly residents:
Consistent Cleaning. The Environmental Services team cleans, disinfects and sterilizes surfaces
throughout the day and equipment after each use.
Self-quarantining. Essential visitors (staff, medical transport, delivery persons, etc.) may
only enter through the front door. Each person is asked five health-related
questions, has their temperature taken and disinfects their hands with
an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. To prevent the spread of coronavirus,
the centers halted leave of absences. “Some of our residents leave
on Friday to stay with family members and return Sunday. In this current
climate, leave of absences defeat our efforts,” Lucke says. “Residents
may still choose to leave, but their return will be delayed until after
the outbreak has passed.”
Social Distancing. Residents are asked to stay six feet apart in common areas. The wide corridors
make this easier. “We also observe this rule in the dining halls.
That’s harder because residents enjoy socializing at mealtimes,”
Visitor Restrictions. For the safety of medically fragile residents, the centers follow federal
guidelines by prohibiting visitors. In the meantime, the staff keep families
connected in creative ways. “We keep families connected through
FaceTime, Skype and window-to-window communication,” Lucke says.
“One of our resident’s face “lit up” when speaking
to his son by phone while his son stood outside his window. They were
accustomed to daily visits, so that was important.”
Meaningful Conversation. Limited social interaction can cause seniors to decline, so the staff are
deepening their conversations with residents to find out how they’re
really feeling. “We diligently plan their care to stave off depression,”
Maintaining Connections. Old-fashioned correspondence matters greatly to seniors. “We encourage
families, friends, volunteers and churches to send cards and letters,”
says Grant, administrator at the Senior Care Center-St. Marys. “We
cannot release residents’ names, but families can share their relative’s
contact information with their acquaintances and ask them to write to
our residents. Including photographs and children’s artwork can
really brighten their day.”
The staff removes outside envelopes and delivers correspondence to the
residents. For now, Grant and Lucke ask that family members do not send
“care packages” to minimize the spread of germs. “If
the public wishes to donate items, the residents are asking for potting
soil, seeds, watering pitchers and plant pots. Please seal new items tightly
in plastic bags to protect against the weather and leave them at our facilities’
front doors. Our staff will disinfect the items before sharing with residents,”
Clear Communication. “We use the free Everbridge program to communicate with families.
We email updates, Facetime instructions and individual staff member phone
numbers if there are questions,” Lucke explains.
Daily Screening. The centers screen residents and staff for COVID-19 every 24 hours according
to CDC guidelines.
Social Activities. To help residents cope with the “new normal”, both centers
offer daily activities such as art, crafts, word games, puzzles and outdoor
time. Outdoors may seem ideal for socializing, but visitor restrictions
and six-feet-distance rules still apply.
The rules may seem stringent, but they help protect the medically fragile.
“Many of our residents are here because of disease conditions and
co-morbidities. It’s our responsibility to protect their health,
while keeping them happy,” says Lucke.
To learn more about the Southeast Georgia Health System Senior Care Centers, visit