Our Clients and Caregivers are important to us. Due to the COVID 19 Virus, it is important that a Home Care Agency develop, communicate and implement an effective Virus Mitigation Program to keep everyone safe. Martha’s Hands has been an Industry Leader during this Crisis, collaborating with National and Regional Home Care Experts along with State and Local Health Departments/Government Officials. We also followed the latest CDC Guidance in formulating our region’s Action Plan. The two main goals were:
- Protect the vulnerable elder population from infection by safely caring for them in their homes and avoiding unnecessary hospital visits or nursing home placements.
- Protect our Caregivers as part of the Essential Healthcare Workforce by reinforcing and enhancing our Virus Mitigation Program while providing them with Personal Protective Equipment.
Virus Mitigation Program
Martha’s Hands always has had a Virus Mitigation Program. Due to COVID 19, we developed enhancements to our program. Our Program has evolved over time with updated guidance from the CDC and local Health Departments, and the availability to Personal Protective Equipment. Essential Elements to our Virus Mitigation Program are:
- Caregiver Health Pre-Check: Prior to their shift, our Caregivers
conducted a Personal Health Pre-Check to verify they had no symptoms including:
- Shortness of Breath
- Tightness in chest
- New, uncontrolled Coughing
- Body Aches
Our Caregivers were encouraged to report their conditions to our Nurse Care Managers. We supported them through access to testing (when available), medical treatment and sick pay compensation. Martha’s Hands would supply either: a replacement Caregiver or would utilize one of the Nursing Team Members to provide care to our Client.
If our Caregiver “called in” for a Health-related reason, we provide assurances to them that they could return to work. In order to return safely, they needed to secure a Medical Release for their doctor/health care provider.
- Caregiver Personal Responsibility: We encouraged our Caregivers to follow CDC
Guidance to reduce their chances of exposure.
- Washing their hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizer
- Avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
- Disinfect surfaces often
- Avoid close contact with people, especially if they were sick
- Covering their mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing
Caregivers were encouraged to wear a personal mask when they left their home and were conducting their personal business in the community. When requested, we provided masks for their personal use.
- Caregiver Start of Care/PPE Usage: When going to their shift, Caregivers were to wear their personal mask. Upon entering the Client’s home, our instructions were immediately wash their hands. When Martha’s Hands Masks are available, they were to place their personal mask into their bag and utilize a Martha’s Hands mask while on shift. Martha’s Hands also provided gloves so our Caregivers could use during personal care with our Clients.
- Client Health Screen: We wanted to assure our Caregivers we were placing them in safe environments, so we communicated with our Clients and their families about screening their loved ones. We assessed new and current Clients for COVID 19 symptoms. If Clients exhibited these symptoms, we worked with their primary care doctor to determine the origins of these symptoms and next steps. If new clients were coming home either from health care facilities or out of state, we asked for COVID 19 tests to be performed with a Negative result prior to start of service.
- Potential Exposure Protocol: We researched the CDC guidance regarding when to communicate and to whom we needed to communicate if there was a positive COVID 19 test within the Martha’s Hands community. While the focus was first on our Clients and Caregivers, we also had to take into consideration if family members of our Clients or Caregivers tested positive. The ripple effect of one positive test can be challenging.
We instituted the Potential Secondary Exposure threshold for communication. Not only would we communicate to those who were in direct contact with a COVID 19 positive individual, we would let any Client or Caregiver know if they were in contact with someone who came in contact with someone who was COVID 19 positive. This level of communication would allow our Clients and Caregivers to know their potential risks and communicate with their health care professional about additional steps that should take.Client/Family Responsibility: While Martha’s Hands has taken steps to mitigate the risks of COVID 19 for their Clients and Caregivers, it takes a partnership with the families to make this work. We communicated steps they could take to mitigate the risks to their loved ones as well as our Caregivers. Besides the Physical Distancing