Gimmie a V!
Vaccinated, For You, For Us, For All
American Senior Communities (ASC) was very happy to learn of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of a COVID-19 vaccine. According to the CDC, the speed with which these vaccines were developed is not due to skipping important safety steps but rather the result of focused, collaborative work performed by experts across the globe.
We are committed to the safety and health of our team members, residents and families we serve. To prevent the spread of COVID-19 by individuals who are asymptomatic, we feel our only course of action is to implement a mandatory vaccination policy, requiring COVID-19 vaccination(s) for all employees, including contracted third-party staff. This will take effect on August 1, 2021. Employees with special circumstances may request an exemption which will be reviewed. In accordance with our mission to compassionately serve every resident with quality care and excellence, we firmly believe that vaccinating all employees is essential for our customer’s safety and health.
We are in awe by this year’s stories of recovery, teamwork, strength, and resilience. The residents and families we serve are very important to us and we will continue to be in close contact with local, state and federal health authorities, following their guidance, mandates and reporting requirements as we move forward with compassion, and an over-abundance of caution and quality care.
Communication Is Important To Us!
Continuing with our efforts to proactively communicate with residents and their families, we are pleased to share a letter written to them about the vaccination from ASC Medical Director, Jose Pinon M.D. and Donna Kelsey, CEO.
Dear Resident/Family Members,
By now you have probably learned that COVID-19 vaccines will soon be approved and ready for distribution to the public. We have long awaited this exciting news, and expect that our health care staff and residents will be among the first to receive these vaccines.
We understand that some of you may be concerned about the safety of these new vaccines, as they have been developed and tested far more quickly than those in the past. We want to assure you that the speed with which these vaccines were developed is not due to skipping important safety steps, but rather the result of focused, collaborative work performed by experts across the globe. Vaccines approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have undergone the same level of rigorous testing for safety and efficacy as other vaccines, and have been tested in tens of thousands of people, including older adults. Two independent advisory committees of experts from academic institutions also monitor vaccines to ensure their safety.
Most of the COVID-19 vaccines require two separate doses given about three or four weeks apart, depending on the vaccine. Participants of clinical trials have reported experiencing short-term side effects after being vaccinated, with more pronounced discomfort after the second dose. These possible side effects include headache, muscle pains, fatigue, chills, fever and pain at the injection site. Sometimes there is misunderstanding about the cause of these reactions, as you may have heard someone say a vaccine has “made them sick” or given them the disease that the vaccine was intended to prevent. We want to be clear that this is not the case. The COVID-19 vaccine cannot you give you a COVID-19 infections of disease. The vaccine works by helping the body create antibodies to fight off the virus. Feeling discomfort after getting the vaccine means that the vaccine is doing its job and your body is making antibodies.
We, along with thousands of other senior care communities, are participating in a program with the Centers for Disease Control to help us most efficiently distribute these vaccines to our residents free of charge once they are available. We will keep you informed of this process as we move forward. Our staff will also have the opportunity to get vaccinated through this program, if they have not been vaccinated previously.
I encourage you to reach out to us if you have any questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, its possible side effects, and what to expect after you or a loved one receives it. As we have been saying over the course of this difficult year, we are all in this together. Please know that the safety and wellbeing of our staff and residents have been and remain our top priority. We are confident that the worldwide, unprecedented scientific achievement of these COVID-19 vaccines will eventually enable to us enjoy life with our loved ones again. We look forward to doing our part in this effort by getting the COVID-19 vaccine, and hope you will join us.
Dr. Jose Pinon, Senior V.P. Medical Affairs
Donna Kelsey, Chief Executive Officer
Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe?
• Approval of a vaccine for use in people involves multiple phases for assessing effectiveness and safety in different populations. There are a total of 4 phases and the vaccine must meet very intense safety criteria before completing each phase. Once a vaccine is approved for use after phase 3, it has been tested in tens of thousands of people and if no significant harmful side effects are noted, it is considered safe for use. Phase 4 involves continued monitoring and gathering of safety data. This type of clinical trial has been used for decades to approve medications and vaccines. No steps have been skipped for the COVID-19 vaccine.
• Safety is the most important requirement for the vaccine and is assessed in trials by independent experts. These experts are from academic institutions, not part of the government, and are vetted to ensure they do not have any conflicts of interest.
• Most adverse side effects occur within 6 weeks of vaccine administration, and the FDA has required 8 weeks of safety monitoring so it can track any side effects.
Can the vaccine give me COVID-19?
• The COVID-19 vaccine is a new type of vaccine called “Messenger RNA” (mRNA). This new type of vaccine does NOT contain live or dead COVID-19 particles like some other vaccines do. Instead, the vaccine gives instructions to your cells to make proteins which will help trigger your body to develop antibodies which will help fight or even prevent COVID-19. MRNA is new technology for vaccine development but has been used successfully in cancer treatments.
• The COVID-19 vaccine cannot give you COVID-19. It does not change your DNA in any way.
I have heard a lot about the EUA (Emergency Use Authorization) in the news.
What does that mean? Should I worry this is being rushed?
• An Emergency Use Authorization for a vaccine is used when the need to use a vaccine quickly arises to save lives during a public health emergency. This EUA is being used to shorten steps but NOT SKIP any steps. The safety steps or earlier phases of the studies are the same. The later phases can be shortened by doing procedures concurrently rather than sequentially.
How long will the vaccine protect us?
• It is likely that we won’t know exactly how long we will be protected from COVID-19 after the vaccination. Much of these will continue to be studied as time goes on. The COVID-19 vaccine may be like our annual flu shots that we get each year. Part of the ongoing studies will be to test for protection as time goes on.
• The vaccine will be administered in two steps: a first dose then a second dose about three weeks later. Full protection is expected about two weeks after the second dose.
• While no vaccine is 100% effective, the vaccines proposed are more than 90% effective. This will greatly reduce your risk of getting sick with COVID-19 and spreading COVID-19 to your loved ones.
After I’ve had the vaccine, do I still need to wear a mask?
• Yes. Even though you have received your vaccine, most of the people around you have not. We know the vaccine prevents disease in the vaccinated person, but it still may be possible to transmit the disease to others.
• Wearing a mask, social distancing, and practicing hand hygiene protects those who have not been vaccinated, especially our residents in long-term care.
Will the vaccine make me sick? What are some of the side effects?
• The vaccines currently being tested in clinical trials can cause short-term discomfort (such as headache, muscle pains, fatigue, chills, fever, and pain at injection site) in some of the people who receive them. This is the effect of your body developing immunity. Clinical trial participants reported that the discomfort went away after a day, sometimes sooner.
• These symptoms DO NOT mean that you have COVID-19; it means that your body’s immune system is reacting to help create antibodies to fight the virus. So if you feel some discomfort, the vaccine is doing its job.
What if I’ve already had COVID-19 or I’ve taken a test that shows I have antibodies?
• Even if you have had COVID-19, it is safe to get the vaccine and this can add additional protection without causing any harm.
• If you have had a test that shows you have COVID-19 antibodies, you should still get the vaccine. It is safe and can increase your protection from future COVID-19 infections.
• But we are still awaiting guidance as to when you should get them. The first vaccines will most likely be prioritized to those who have not had COVID-19 yet and have no immunity. After we finish vaccinating those residents, you will mostly likely come next.
Where can I get accurate information on the COVID-19 Vaccine?
• Unfortunately, social media can be full of misinformation or based on individual opinions. More reliable sources of information include:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/ coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/about-vaccines.html
CDC: Provider Resources for COVID-19 Vaccine Conversations with Patients and Answering Patients’ Questions: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/covid-conversations/
Visitation for Indiana Communities:
Families are being reunited under ongoing guidance released by the Indiana State Department of Health for indoor and/or outdoor visitation. We understand that residents and families are anxious to connect; American Senior Communities is utilizing policies and protocols based on this guidance to keep our residents and employees safe during these visits.
Only ASC communities that meet specific criteria can allow visitations to occur.
Visitors at approved communities must have an appointment and will be screened. They will also be asked to sign-in, wear a face mask and adhere to proper social distancing, along with other criteria. Residents must also wear a face mask and meet additional criteria during the visit. ASC families are encouraged to review the criteria provided by ISDH which can be found here.
Visitation guidance may change and is influenced by numerous factors which may include the spread of COVID-19 within the local community.
While there are some restrictions involved, we look forward to connecting families and loved ones.
Visitation for Kentucky Communities:
The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) has recommended a variety of steps that we are implementing to reduce the potential for the virus to enter our building. We ask for your cooperation and understanding as we implement those preventative measures for COVID-19.
Effective June 29th, families are being reunited under new guidance released by The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) for visitation. We understand that residents and families are anxious to connect; thus we are utilizing policies and protocols based on this new guidance to keep our residents and employees safe while reintroducing visitation with loved ones.
Visitors must have an appointment and will be screened. They will also be asked to sign-in, wear a face mask and adhere to proper social distancing, along with other criteria. Residents must also wear a face mask and meet additional criteria during the visit.
Families are encouraged to review the criteria provided by The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) which can be found here and call Forest Hill Commons should they have additional questions. While there are some restrictions involved, this new guidance brings hope and we look forward to reuniting families.
Daily, residents and employees are assessed for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and have their temperature taken. Employees exhibiting symptoms are immediately sent home until they meet the return to work guidelines outlined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Residents exhibiting symptoms are tested and placed in special precautions while they await their results.
Early detection of the virus is imperative to reducing the exposure risk to other residents and to staff. Each community is equipped with Point of Care (POC) testing machines that produce results within 15 minutes. Residents and employees are tested at a frequency in accordance to state and federal mandates which ranges from twice a week to monthly.
Additional protective precautions, assessments, monitoring and treatment protocols are put in place to serve residents who test positive.
Treatment and Recovery
Senior VP of Medical Affairs, Dr. Jose Pinon, along with the ASC COVID-19 taskforce, has been working closely with state and federal health authorities to ensure ASC protocols are in line with the most current care options available to fight this disease.
Symptoms of COVID-19 vary from mild (more like a common cold) to more severe symptoms such as respiratory distress. Just as symptoms vary, so do treatment options. ASC’s Director of Pharmacy coordinates efforts to maintain symptom control. This coordination engages each community’s Medical Directors and resident following physicians.
Data shows that most people diagnosed with COVID-19 do recover. However, the elderly population is most at risk for complications. ASC utilizes the CDC’s symptom-based strategy. Under this guidance, 10 days must pass after the first symptom(s) appear or 10 days from the first positive test for those that remain asymptomatic. Additionally, there must be 24 hours with no fever without use of fever-reducing medications, and improvement in symptoms. The time period used depends on the resident’s severity of illness and if they are severely immunocompromised, which may be extended up to 20 days and may need consultation with an infection control expert. Residents that are asymptomatic but have tested positive for COVID-19 must continue to be symptom free for 10 days before they would be considered recovered. Ongoing hydration and nutrition monitoring are key components of the recovery care plan.
COVID-19 Screening of Employees and Essential Medical Providers
Limiting the number of people who enter our resident’s home and rigorously screening those who do enter, are important strategies to minimizing the exposure to COVID-19.
Screening includes a questionnaire about COVID-19 symptoms and a temperature reading. Any employee, visitor or medical provider that triggers screening concerns, is not permitted to work, visit or provide service that day. Employees, visitors and medical providers are expected to wear personal protective equipment such as a mask, eye protection, gloves, gowns, etc. and follow facility infection control policies and procedures while in the community.
ASC offers a dedicated admissions team that works side by side with families and hospital personnel to ensure a smooth transition for residents as they acclimate to their new setting.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, ASC offers prospective families a variety of virtual tour options including face time and can answer questions via phone, email, text or video conference. Treatment consents can be signed electronically and shared via email for convenience. Directors of Admissions can also arrange off-site meetings with families if preferred.
To ensure the safety of our residents, each new resident is screened for COVID-19 symptoms prior to admission. Additionally, we welcome our new admissions into an enhanced infection control observation for their first two weeks. New residents dine and participate in life enriching activities in their room during the first two weeks.
At American Senior Communities, we believe that caring for others means personally knowing and valuing each individual as a person. We believe that each customer deserves to be known, recognized, understood and cared for as much emotionally as they do physically. Upon admission, each resident is paired with a CARE Companion. While residents are cared for by the full team, a CARE Companion is someone who goes above and beyond to identify mutual interests that typically lead to a deeper connection and friendship. These companions provide a variety of updates to families as well as solicit preferences and help arrange visiting options. For more information about CARE Companions, click here.
Moving Forward Rehabilitation is designed for those striving to return home following a hospital stay but who could benefit from continued skilled nursing care, physical, occupational and/or speech therapy to restore self-care abilities and confidence. Programs are tailored to the individual; therefore, our programs are well positioned for modifications due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Upon admission, initial assessments and road to recovery goal setting meetings are held in the resident’s room. Therapy sessions may take place in the room or in the gym utilizing strict guidelines such as private therapy sessions and enhanced cleaning protocols before and after the session. As conditions allow, our therapy team is eager to get patients in the therapy gyms and using our state-of-the-art equipment as soon as possible.
Equipment is sanitized before and after each therapy session and between treating each patient. Therapists and patients wear masks and perform hand hygiene per guidelines, including throughout therapy sessions and between treating each patient.
Respiratory therapy services have been added to many communities to assist with respiratory issues related to COVID-19.
Where outpatient therapy services are available, those therapy sessions have resumed utilizing state and local guidance.
Therapy is essential to the well-being, care and recovery of our patients. Our team remains focused on each patient’s health, safety and satisfaction.
American Senior Communities’ memory care neighborhoods are operating within the CDC’s COVID-19 recommendations currently in place for each ASC community.
For the health of our residents we are striving every day to honor state, local and federal guidelines, monitoring social distancing and encouraging residents to wear masks, as tolerated. Because COVID-19 restrictions may disrupt some of the daily activities and routines which enhance the lives our memory care residents, our highly trained memory care team is well equipped to observe for, and recognize any unusual, behavioral or symptom-based expressions that would denote a decrease in our residents’ psychosocial or emotional quality of life.
Our memory care employees are going above and beyond to continue to create meaningful moments with our residents every day. Our team is continuing to prioritize wellness and engagement along with excellent infection control practices.
One of the most important ways to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus is thorough and frequent cleaning of surfaces.
American Senior Communities has implemented enhanced housekeeping procedures to ensure a clean and sanitized environment. All housekeeping personnel are educated on infection control practices and cleaning strategies specific to COVID-19. Each housekeeper uses specialized, CDC approved disinfectant to kill the virus on surfaces. High touch areas such as light switches, doorknobs and call lights are sanitized multiple times per day by several team members. A Quality Assurance tool is used to validate that enhanced housekeeping procedures are being followed for every room and common area.
Because infection control is of the utmost importance, ASC is implementing a high-tech electrostatic spraying system in each community. These state-of-the-art tools, already in use in major hotels, will only enhance our already rigorous approach to sanitization. Our fine mist sprayers will aid in the disinfection of high touch areas, including fabrics such as couches, chairs, etc.
At American Senior Communities, we take pride in creating a pleasurable dining experience prepared by highly a skilled team of culinary experts. We understand that the social dining experience has historically been a very important part of our residents’ day.
Guidance from state and local authorities has created a pathway for residents to dine together utilizing complex criteria which includes reduced capacity, maintaining a social distance and enhanced cleaning before and each dining experience.
Extensive training with our culinary staff is being conducted on enhanced precautions that will help open these selected dining rooms safely.
To help prevent the virus from entering our communities, outside vendors are given limited access to our kitchens. Many of our food deliveries are conducted outside and containers are wiped down with a sanitizing solution prior to storage.
Safety is of the utmost concern but so are the nutritional needs and satisfaction of our residents. Culinary and social enrichment professionals provide selections where residents choose from a variety of their favorite snacks and beverages which helps to improve nutrition and hydration and may also brighten their day.
The Culinary team remains focused on safety, nutrition and our residents’ satisfaction.
Activities for Life Enrichment
Activities are an important part of a resident’s day. Our employees go above and beyond to continue to create meaningful moments with our residents. Our Activity Departments have been very creative in their efforts!
Due to COVID-19, group activities have been reimagined. From conducting BINGO from the hallway to leading exercises and even dance contests, our activity professionals are continuing to prioritize wellness and engagement while adhering to social distancing and infection control guidance.
Independent, in-room activities are also provided. A variety of technology-based entertainment and activity platforms have shared their content with us. Using iPads and additional equipment, residents have access to music from the Great American Songbook, virtual museum tours, games, concerts, movies and more.
Each resident’s individual preferences and interests are assessed and supported as opportunities for life enrichment are presented either in their rooms or in a modified group setting.
We realize that the changes in daily routines and visitor restrictions caused by COVID-19 may be concerning for our residents. We are collaborating closely with local, state and federal health officials to continue to evaluate options for qualifying communities to ease restrictions while still ensuring resident safety.
Social enrichment professionals are continuing to prioritize wellness and engagement while maintaining social distancing and infection control.
Each resident is being monitored daily for indications of stress. Our team is trained to recognize any new or usual expressions that may indicate a concern. Things such as variations in sleeping or eating patterns, irritability, sadness and withdrawal from others are just a few of the symptoms that staff assesses for during resident interaction. In cases when these symptoms are observed, Social Services, the interdisciplinary team and the physician work in conjunction to develop a plan of care to address concerns. Interventions may include changes in the resident’s daily routine, how often they communicate with their loved ones and/or counseling services. Counseling services are available.
Families observing any change in their loved one’s psychosocial well-being, are encouraged to share their concerns with a member of the management team. These leaders can discuss observations and develop a plan for further assessment.
We understand that connecting our residents with their loved one is incredibly important during COVID-19 visitor restrictions. We offer access to communication devices and extra support to families who desire a visit with their loved ones through alternative methods such as telephone, email, text, video chat or social media during this challenging public health concern.
Do you have a sufficient amount of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?
As reported in the news, across the nation in all sectors of healthcare, PPE has been in short supply since the onset of COVID-19. ASC’s procurement department is working very hard to secure and maintain the proper level of PPE inventory necessary to safely care for our residents and protect our employees.
What types of education are you providing to your employees?
American Senior Communities began educating staff regarding COVID-19 from the onset of this situation. All employees are educated on infection control measures as well as how COVID-19 is transmitted. Educational posters are hung throughout the community for reference.
How are you handling issues with staffing shortages?
Our recruitment team is working diligently to ensure we maintain proper staffing levels. We also contract with staffing agencies should we need to take advantage of that option to ensure your loved one is well cared for.
How do I locate my local ombudsman?
For Indiana communities visit https://www.in.gov/
For Kentucky communities visit http://www.locate-a-ombudsman.com/KentuckyOmbudsman.html
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is an illness caused by a virus that can spread from person to person. COVID-19 symptoms can range from mild (or even no symptoms) to severe illness.
People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
This list does not include all possible symptoms. CDC will continue to update this list as they learn more about COVID-19.
COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.
- These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
- Some recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.
Currently, there is no vaccine to protect against COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. This can include avoiding close contact with others, wearing masks and other personal protective equipment, cleaning frequently touched surfaces often and washing your hands often or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
You can keep up to date on the symptoms and prevention of COVID-19 on the CDC website.
Love Endures, Caring Connections Continue
Horses of Hope
Horses of Hope
The ASC Cavalry, Horses of hope have been visiting the residents and team members of American Senior Communities. These horses have had the opportunity to impact the mental wellbeing of the ASC family as they travel from city to city doing window visits.
We understand where visitor restrictions are still in place, times continue to be extremely difficult and emotional for everyone. Our social enrichment team continues to keep families connected utilizing alternative methods and create engaging activities and social events. We encourage families to follow what’s going on by liking the Facebook page for their community.