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EAMC-Lanier Nursing Home administrators talk about COVID experience

VALLEY — An outbreak of COVID-19 was late in getting to EAMC-Lanier Nursing Home – it didn’t take place until January – but when it did the staff was able to get a handle on it, keeping it from being much worse than it could have been. Administrator Alison Yarbrough and Director of Nursing Jennifer Hunt talked about their experience at last Wednesday’s noon hour meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Valley. Yarbrough has been with EAMC-Lanier for 17 years, and Hunt has been there for 16 years.

“Everything broke loose when Covid hit us in January,” Yarbrough said. “Few things are life changing but that was. I’m still not the same. Our nursing home was one of the last in the state of Alabama and nation to have an outbreak. This virus is constantly seeking some way of seeping in. When it does, it can spread

like wildfire.”

Something that did help get over the crisis were monochromal antibody infusions. “We were able do it quickly, and it helped save a lot of lives,” Yarbrough said. “It’s good we were able to do that.”

The nursing home implemented precautions in March 2020.

“Dr. Joe Downs contacted us and told us that changes were coming,” Yarbrough said. “He told us not to have a St. Patrick’s Day party like we normally did. We went into a tailspin and were changing all kinds of policies. We were constantly getting updates from the Alabama Nursing Home Association on what we needed to do. People couldn’t see family members in the nursing home. At first, we thought that was temporary, but it went on a lot longer than we thought it would.”

Those staff members who have been fully vaccinated no longer have to wear masks, but social distancing is still taking place inside the nursing home.

Yarbrough said she appreciates the families of nursing home residents being understanding.

“They were good to us,” she said. “We updated them as much as we could. It was difficult for the residents not seeing their family members. Some of them lost weight. We brought residents snacks and spent time with them. We became family to them. We have seen many examples of what we call compassionate care nurses.”

Family members who have been vaccinated can now visit their family, but the visits have to be scheduled in advance.

Visitors are still required to wear masks, have their temperature taken and are asked questions when they arrive.

“If you are fully vaccinated,” said Hunt, “you can touch your family member. You can hug them. They get a lot out of that. It’s amazing what the touch of a family member will do.”

“We are not there yet, but we want to open our doors and let everyone in like we used to,” Yarbrough said.

EAMC-Lanier Nursing Home is a 103-bed facility with 39 beds on the first floor and 64 on the second floor. In most cases, a resident is there on a long-term basis. There are some who come there for short-term rehabilitation. LPNs can administer medication. CNAs can feed, bathe and provide nail care. At the present time, there are 69 residents at the nursing home. “

We were impacted by Covid, and some people are scared to have a family member there,” Yarbrough said. “We are hoping to get those numbers back up.”

Yarbrough said it’s a good idea to plan ahead for a family member to be admitted.

“You need to start doing it five years in advance,” she said. “We have never taken anyone’s home away, but Medicaid can put liens on homes. No one out there in their thirties thinks ‘I can’t wait to be in a nursing home.’ It’s a good idea to keep good financial records. If the government pays for your care, they want to make sure you really need it. It’s good for a family member to know your healthcare wishes.”

Hunt said that people should expect to have a good quality of life in a nursing home.

“They don’t go there to die,” she said. “They go to a nursing home to have a higher quality of life than they would have had at home. We had one resident who was with us for 22 years. She came after having had a stroke and lived to be 105.”

There are plans to have some major renovations at the nursing home. They have been put on hold for now because of high lumber prices, but some minor renovations are taking place.