Champions in Action
After a hard-fought battle against COVID-19, the new vaccine provides associates and residents at Life Care Center of Farmington the hope they’ve been waiting for. The facility hosted its first vaccine clinic on Jan. 12, 2021.
I think everyone in the skilled nursing industry is thankful that a vaccine is available and being administered, and we are thrilled that vaccinations are underway at our facility. It's an understatement to say this has been a difficult year, but the vaccine offers hope as we move forward.
Josh Martin, executive director at Life Care Center of Farmington
Additional vaccine clinics will be hosted to complete the vaccine process, and Martin said that he is encouraging residents and associates to be vaccinated, but it is not required. He emphasized that the availability of a vaccine is not the end of the fight against COVID-19, which attacked the skilled nursing industry across the country in 2020. Moving forward, Life Care Center of New Market will maintain stringent safety measures and will continue to follow all guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and state and local public health agencies.
Fighting a pandemic was not something that most medical professionals anticipated facing in their careers, but the heroes at Life Care Center of New Market rose to the occasion and fought bravely to protect their residents, who are like family. Here is the story of their COVID-19 journey…
With no warning, a lethal strain of COVID-19 attacked Life Care Center of Farmington, New Mexico, on April 1 of this year. For the next 115 days, the facility that has served the Farmington community for 26 years battled a virtually unknown virus — one that had only surfaced in the United States and a handful of its more than 16,000 skilled nursing homes less than six weeks earlier.
It was April 1, but this was no April Fools' joke.
By the time the New Mexico reached its summer peak of new active cases on June 27, the associates of Life Care Center of Farmington had already come face-to-face with COVID-19, battled it and stabilized their facility.
The pall that COVID-19 cast over the facility in April and May has been replaced with laughter and smiles as families are slowly being reunited with their loved ones during outside visits, while looking forward to full visitation, which is on its way.
"The passion and spirit of the people here at Life Care Center of Farmington sustained them in the spring and continues to inspire the high level of service they provide today."
Josh Martin, the facility's new Executive Director
Kristin Shambro is a regional vice president in the Southwest Division of Life Care Centers of America, and Farmington is one of her buildings. She was there in the early days of COVID-19 at Farmington, and she witnessed firsthand the heroic work done by the facility's associates and the tears they shed every time a resident passed away.
"There are really no words to describe the pain."
Kristin Shambro, Regional Vice President
Life Care Center of Farmington held a memorial service on Oct. 15 to honor the residents who died as a result of COVID-19. A tree and permanent plaque were placed on the grounds of the facility in their memory.
"We will think about our residents each day as we see the plaque and watch the tree grow," said Martin.
View the Life Care Center of Farmington Memorial Service
As it was for all of America's skilled nursing homes that faced COVID-19 in the first two months of the virus' sweep across the country, the first weeks of the outbreak at Life Care Center of Farmington were difficult, as knowledge of how to treat a virus with no cure was limited. Getting test results took up to 14 days, causing the rapid spread of a highly contagious virus. Local and state public health departments rallied to aid Life Care Center of Farmington as the strictly facility followed all of the protocols offered by the New Mexico Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
"We had different peaks in the number of positive cases," said Shambro. "They would trickle in, and then we would have 12 positives in a day. Then, a slow trickle, and then 16 more positives. The first few weeks felt really slow, even though the work was intense. We would think we were doing better, and then a big number of positives would come our way. It was disheartening, but we just kept working and taking care of our residents."
Julie Hank-Sanderson is the director of nursing at Life Care Center of Farmington, and she joined her team in battling the virus.
"When COVID-19 was first diagnosed here in the building, it was scary. I couldn't believe we had a case in my building, in one of my residents who called Life Care home. It took this battle to a whole new level. One second, we were trying to keep the virus out, the next we were fighting an unseen enemy that struck fast and hard. It didn't care your age, your ethnicity or where you came from in life — it struck all the same, and the results were devastating."
Julie Hank-Sanderson, Director of Nursing
The department of health was on-site at Life Care Center of Farmington and did virtual tours of the facility weekly through June. Federal surveyors from CMS did an on-site survey on May 27. The survey resulted in zero deficiencies against the facility, which speaks to the marvelous work being done by associates.
"To not get a single tag in the CMS survey is amazing. It shows the teamwork that occurred in Farmington and how stringently they followed all policy and protocols."
Matt Ham, Southwest Division Vice President
Months later, associates at Life Care Center of Farmington still talk about the outpouring of support they felt from the Farmington community during the outbreak. They talk about the phone calls of encouragement the facility and its residents received. A mural was even placed outside the facility that said, "Thank you Life Care staff! Your community supports you!!!" Video calls and window visits brought peace and smiles to residents and associates on difficult days.
As the virus began to peak in San Juan County and the rest of the state in the middle of July, Life Care Center of Farmington was calm. The lessons they had learned in April and May, along with the partnership they had developed with with local and state health officials and quicker test results, kept the building free of COVID-19.
"We were as prepared as anybody for a second wave of the virus, but it never came. For that, we are grateful," said Shambro.
That vigilance includes:
Life Care Center of Farmington remains vigilant to provide a high level of service in a safe environment that brings peace of mind to our residents and their families. It's what the community expects, and it is what the champions of care at Life Care Center of Farmington will continue to provide. That vigilance includes:
- Providing every patient with a routine clinical assessment.
- Using "Point of Care" testing equipment from the federal government.
- An ongoing surveillance testing program that continues for staff, per state requirement.
- A policy that states new admissions will be placed in quarantine for at least 14 days, allowing for observation to focus on preventing any new introduction of the virus into the facility.
- Ongoing communication with family members includes monitored outdoor visits, window visits, texts, phone calls, FaceTime calls and "drive-by" parades to keep families connected to their loved ones.
- Strict adherence to CDC, CMS and state health department infection control protocols will be maintained.
- Training for associates will be continuously updated based on regulations and first-hand experience in controlling the virus.
Like many of her director of nursing colleagues around the country, Sanderson never gave a moment's thought that she would find herself in the middle of a pandemic, never mind one that would cause more than 140 people to get sick and 44 to pass away.
"I must say, not once did our associates falter in this fight. Every day we rose together and fought as champions against an invisible enemy that tore through our hearts and souls. I am honored to fight alongside this team for our residents and each other."
Julie Hank-Sanderson, Director of Nursing