We are pleased to announce that Bethesda is tailoring a new program called Essential Caregiver – in accordance with guidelines released from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). This program will be designed to assist our residents who may have experienced disruptions in their normal care routines that were previously provided by a loved one or outside caregiver prior to the visitor restrictions required by state and federal guidelines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is an Essential Caregiver?
An Essential Caregiver is any loved one, representative, or outside caregiver who is deemed to play a critical role in the quality of life for our residents and tenants. These essential caregiving partners will provide additional support to our care teams by helping with activities of daily living and/or emotional support within our settings. It is vital that we remain vigilantly aware that these new care support options are for the sole use of caregiving and not to be viewed as a visitation model within our settings.
Our phased approach to safely implement the Essential Caregiver program at Bethesda will result in a limited number of participants as we launch the program. As we are able to graduate to additional phases, additional participants may become eligible to participate.
Do facilities have to offer the option of Essential Caregivers?
No, long-term care settings within Minnesota may choose whether to offer the Essential Caregiver program within its setting. At Bethesda, we recognize the critical role family members and other outside caregivers, such as friends, volunteers, and private personal caregivers, often have in the care and support of residents. For that reason, we are choosing to carefully implement the program in a designated phased approach to ensure that program participation will meet the ongoing health and safety precautions we have implemented over the past few months.
Ensuring the safety of our residents, tenants, and staff is our top priority, and we are committed to doing our best to implement a program that marries the need for safety with the need to provide opportunities that positively impact the emotional and social wellness of our residents and tenants.
When will Bethesda begin the Essential Caregiver program?
- Bethesda housing communities such as Sunrise Village, Centennial Square, Park View Village, and Fairview Place will begin Phase 1 of the Essential Caregiver program on Monday, August 3.
- Bethesda Grand and Bethesda Club Suites will begin Phase 1 of the Essential Caregiver program on Monday, August 10.
Realizing both the potential benefits and risks of allowing additional essential caregivers into the building, we will carefully consider the current status of COVID-19 in our setting and local communities on an on-going basis and reserve the right to suspend the program without notice, if deemed necessary.
How does Bethesda determine who is an Essential Caregiver?
Essential Caregivers will be determined on an individualized basis. Each resident will be assessed by our interdisciplinary care team that includes social workers, nursing staff, recreation, and administration. If the resident/tenant meets the established benchmarks for participation in the Essential Caregiver program, then they will be consulted about their desires to participate in the program, as well as whom to designate as their care partner. If the resident desires to designate more than one Essential Caregiver based on their past involvement and needs, we will work cooperatively with them to determine who will serve as essential caregivers and the schedule for those visits. Essential Caregivers can be family members, outside caregivers, friends, or volunteers who provided regular care and emotional support to the resident prior to the pandemic.
What are the Phases of Bethesda’s Essential Caregiver Program?
- Phase 1: Includes a family member, outside caregiver, friend or volunteer who was actively involved with physical cares for the resident prior to or during the COVID-19 pandemic, or the resident is identified to have been most negatively impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, has experienced significant change and great psychosocial needs based on trigger of many/most objective data questions from an assessment such as a decline in activities of daily living, weight loss, increase in behaviors, or increase in anti-anxiety or depression medications.
- Phase 2: Includes a family member, outside caregiver, friend, or volunteer who would support a resident going through a significant change, and resident has triggered many objective data questions from an assessment.
- Phase 3: Includes a family member, outside caregiver, friend, or volunteer who would support the social and emotional needs of the resident, not met through outdoor visitation, social media, or other communication methods. These residents have fewer objective measures triggered by their assessment.
What is required of an Essential Caregiver?
Essential Caregivers must agree to follow all necessary guidelines including the continual use of personal protective equipment (PPE), at a minimum wearing face coverings (masks) and eyewear, while in our settings. If an Essential Caregiver is seen not adhering to guidelines, they will be immediately asked to leave the premises and may be ineligible to continue participation in the Essential Caregiver program.
Essential Caregivers also will be required to limit their movement within our building, providing care and support only in their loved one’s room or a designated space. Additionally, all Essential Caregivers must participate in on-going infection control and proper use of PPE education on an initial and as-needed basis.
If an Essential Caregiver develops a fever or symptoms of COVID-19 within 14 days of a visit, they agree to inform us immediately by calling our COVID Hotline at 320-235-0240 or the nurse associated with their area.
What if I am not deemed to be an Essential Caregiver candidate?
We recognize the concern you may have that not everyone will be able to serve as an Essential Caregiver. We also deeply feel the desire of our residents and their loved ones to be connected in a more meaningful way. At this time, indoor visits in our settings are still not allowed per the Minnesota Department of Health. Please know we continue to provide outdoor visits, window visits, and virtual visits through our Bethesda E-Connect program. We encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities to continue to engage in meaningful connections with your loved ones.
We ask for your continued patience and understanding as we begin to incorporate this new program that balances the safety, health, and wellness for all who live and work here and for those who serve in the Essential Caregiver role.
Thank you for sharing in our concern and efforts to keep residents in our community safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. While we welcome this new program opportunity, we must all continue to be vigilant. If, at any time, it is deemed unsafe for Essential Caregivers to enter the building — due to a rise in the number of cases in our community, either within our walls or in the broader community — it is our obligation per MDH guidelines to revisit and reassess the program. As with every step we have taken on this journey together, we remain committed to keeping you updated and aware of the current impacts COVID-19 has had on our organization.
We look forward to the day when we can welcome the warm embrace of a loved one and the friendly smile from a neighbor within our settings.