Champions in Action
The positivity and support of the community have always been a driving force for Life Care Center of Athens – while battling COVID-19 and beyond. The facility hosted its first vaccine clinic on Jan. 4, 2021, and it was truly a full-circle moment, where associates looked to a future of continuing to serve and love one another and the community. As COVID-19 vaccines begin, the team at Athens is more hopeful than ever.
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.
Gary Cochran, executive director at Life Care Center of Athens
Additional vaccine clinics will be hosted to complete the vaccine process, and Cochran 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. Life Care Center of Athens 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.
"Our goal is to provide a high level of service in a safe environment that brings peace of mind for our residents and patients, along with their families," said Cochran. "The virus tested us, but we came out stronger on the other side."
Fighting a pandemic was not something that most medical professionals anticipated facing in their careers, but the champions at Life Care Center of Athens rose to the occasion and fought bravely to protect their residents, who are like family. Here is the story of their COVID-19 journey...
At Life Care Athens, we know the privilege – and pain – of holding the hands of dying residents – patients whose families wanted their loved ones to remain at "home" with us for their final days, instead of transferring to a local hospital.
Although there is no guarantee of what tomorrow holds with one of the most contagious virus Americans have ever seen, the lessons we have already learned during this pandemic have made us better. And the devastating moments of the unprecedented crisis we face have been replaced with optimism for the future. Our commitment is stronger than ever.
From our first known case of COVID-19 on April 12, the Athens community came together to support and encourage our associates as we met the virus head on, defeated it and moved forward with a stable, safe facility. We continue to be grateful for that ongoing community support.
There is no debating that emotional scars remain, and our hearts break when we think of those we lost and the families they left behind. The residents we lost will never be forgotten.
"What is important to know now is that we have learned from experience how to maintain and assure safety in our facility for patients and associates," said Jennifer Solomon, the divisional vice president responsible for Athens.
"What is important is being vigilant in all we do, and I know that will be the case in Athens as we look to the future."
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.
Our leadership and associates have walked through some dark days and have come out stronger on the other side. We look to the future and are more committed than ever to the Athens community and to delivering high-quality care and peace of mind to our patients and their families in the safest possible environment.