Benchmark Coronavirus (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions

March 27, 2020

Benchmark Coronavirus (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions

The following are some answers to commonly asked questions about Benchmark’s protocols and general information about COVID-19. 

GENERAL INFORMATION

What type of symptoms should I be looking for?

Unfortunately, the symptoms of COVID-19 can mimic that of most common cold and flu viruses, which is why it’s essential to be evaluated if you are exhibiting symptoms. These symptoms include a fever, cough and mild to severe shortness of breath. 

What type of cleaning activities are you undertaking to control the spread of the virus? 

We have escalated cleaning activities using specialized products to help minimize the spread of the virus, including all communities receiving the application of a non-toxic, CDC-approved spray.

VISITORS

How are you handling visitors to your communities? 

After careful review, to protect our residents, we have decided to restrict visitors to all Benchmark communities, effective March 13, 2020, and until further notice. Only healthcare providers, private caregivers and family members who are part of a care plan, and the loved ones of residents who are receiving end of life care will be permitted. Examples of permissible visitors are home healthcare nurses who provide wound care or give injections or physical therapists who have an appointment in the resident’s room.  

If you are someone who provides your loved one’s medication or daily care, your community’s resident care team will be reaching out to you to discuss options for prescription fills and refills. This is because, for some people, symptoms do not begin to appear until many days after exposure, and even those who do not exhibit symptoms or have not traveled outside of the U.S. can carry the virus. We ask that you check with your individual community on visitor policies, which may frequently be changing.

What does your visitor screening entail?

Essential visitors are required to answer a series of questions and have their temperature taken. They also must either hand sanitize or wash their hands before proceeding into the community.

If visitors are discouraged from visiting, how are loved ones able to stay in touch? 

To help provide additional comfort for all during this time while minimizing visits, we are in the process of deploying mobile devices across all Benchmark communities. Our programming team is working with residents to do virtual calls and facilitate regular phone calls with loved ones.

Also, you are welcome to deliver flowers, gifts, books or any other non-medical items to front entry vestibules. Please label them with the resident’s name and your contact info, and we will be sure it gets to them. 

How can I get medication to my loved one? 

If you are someone who provides your loved one’s medication, then your community’s Resident Care Director will be reaching out to you to discuss our preferred pharmacy medication packaging system and to secure an up-to-date medication list. If you must continue to provide your loved one’s medicine, your community will arrange a time to meet you at the community to pick-up the medication(s). 

Are postal carrier or pharmacy delivery people allowed into your communities?

A postal carrier or any other delivery person may drop-off items in the lobby but can have no contact with residents. 

Will community hair salons continue to operate if no visitors are allowed? 

At this time, vendors are not allowed inside a Benchmark community. Therefore, our hair salons are not operating at this time. 

If visitors are limited, will religious services or clergy visits be canceled? 

In our effort to limit outside exposure, any outside clergy are not allowed inside the building unless a resident is receiving end of life care. As such, and where possible, our associates will facilitate alternative options, including community or resident-led services or streaming, where possible. 

RESIDENTS

How can we be sure you are taking the proper steps to protect our loved one who is a resident at your facility, if residents there have been diagnosed with the virus despite your efforts?

The health and safety of our residents and employees are our top priorities. Because it is a novel virus, the medical community's understanding of the virus and how it is spreading is evolving. We are working closely with medical professionals to be aware of the latest developments, while we have been following recommendations of the CDC, as well as state departments of health, to limit transmission of the disease. We will continue to adjust our practices as needed to protect our residents and employees as much as possible.

Are you testing all residents and staff at the community for the coronavirus?

We are following the direction of the public health authorities with respect to identifying the persons who should be tested and who should not. We monitor our residents closely. 

How are residents being monitored for COVID-19?

Our associates are closely monitoring all residents for signs of COVID-19 symptoms and will immediately report symptoms to their community’s resident care associates and state and local authorities, if necessary.

How are you limiting the possibility of associates infecting residents? 

We are screening associates at the start of each shift, by asking them if they are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 and by taking their temperature before releasing them to work with residents.  Any associate who is found to have had exposure to the virus or receives a confirmed diagnosis is not allowed to return to work until cleared by their physician. 

What is your plan if a resident is diagnosed or presumptively diagnosed with the coronavirus?

The health and well-being of all our residents is our number one priority. As required by state and federal guidance, we will immediately contact the public health authorities if we learn that any individual has had direct exposure to the virus.  We will enact measures deemed appropriate, such as quarantine, as directed by the health department’s experts. All residents who are either quarantined or isolated will continue to receive personal care services.  

Should I move my loved one home if there is a confirmed case in a Benchmark community? 

Moving and a new environment can be stressful for older people, especially those with memory impairment. However, only you know what is right for your loved one. We encourage you to consider things like whether you can provide the appropriate care for your loved one at home or in another setting.  

Are you accepting new residents at this time? 

We have temporarily suspended all new resident move-ins to provide additional protection for our residents and associates and to further limit outside visitors. This policy will remain in effect until further notice.

DINING & PROGRAMMING

What is being done about meals? 

Following widespread state shutdown of restaurants to discourage group gatherings, we have enacted the same protocol and have discontinued dining room service for independent living, traditional assisted living and skilled nursing until further notice. Residents will order from their community’s regular menu, and their meals will be delivered to their rooms. Memory care dining rooms will remain open in the interest of the safety and quality of life of those living with dementia. 

What programming changes have been made to reduce residents’ exposure? 

Effective March 17, 2020, all independent living, traditional assisted living and skilled nursing programming are being discontinued until further notice. Memory care programming is being reassessed and modified to eliminate group activities. Our programming team is working hard to keep residents active and engaged creatively on their own with individualized activities.

Are residents allowed to go outside? 

Yes, residents are encouraged to go outside to get fresh air, especially on warm days. While outside, we are recommending that residents adhere to social distancing guidelines, maintaining a six feet distance at all times. Before re-entry into the building, all residents will be required to go through a screening process.

ASSOCIATES

Why are all of your staff not wearing personal protective equipment, such as gloves and masks?

We are following the guidance of public health authorities, such as the Federal Government’s Centers for Disease Control and Infection (CDC), as well as state and local health departments, as to what personal protective equipment our employees should wear. If and when this guidance changes, we will address the new or revised standards.

What is the protocol for associates who have or will be traveling? 

Associates who are returning from travel to high-risk areas are required to self-quarantine for 14 days, and all associates returning from travel of any kind are being screened.

How are you limiting the possibility of associates infecting residents? 

We are screening associates at the start of each shift, by asking them if they are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 and by taking their temperature before releasing them to work with residents.  Any associate who is found to have had exposure to the virus or receives a confirmed diagnosis is not allowed to return to work until cleared by their physician. 

Are associates who are required to self-quarantine or isolate being paid?

Yes, all Benchmark associates who are required to self-quarantine or isolate are being paid during that time.

CONTACTS

Who do I contact for more information? 

You may email healthquestions@benchmarkquality.com and we will respond within 24 hours. Alternatively, you may contact your community’s executive director. 
 
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