Unifying the Healthcare Community

By: Patricia Hudak, RN and Chelsea Cassidy, LCSW

The COVID-19 vaccine has arrived and is being distributed throughout the country to every state.  The first phase included healthcare professionals and residents of long-term care facilities.  We are aware that within our healthcare community and even outside, the question for many of us, specifically the minority population, remains “Can I trust those in authority that the vaccine is safe-particularly from long term effects and not getting sick?”

The healthcare community as well as the nation remains divided on this question. We are looking to our leaders for guidance and education to make the best personal informed decision.

In today’s climate there are many more aspects that we are aware of that need to be considered when making this decision.  For instance, how does race and cultural differences impact this decision?  As a company, we are committed to continually look at our perspectives and policies on equality for our employees and the people we serve.

In efforts to better educate and inform ourselves, we had the privilege to interview one of our AT Home Care Chaplains, Reverend Justin House, regarding his decision-making process for receiving the vaccine.

Reverend House has been a Chaplain with AT Home Care Hospice since December 2019.  He has joined the healthcare community at a challenging time, considering the COVID-19 pandemic began to affect the United States just four months after he joined our team.  He has three children and is also the Senior Pastor for Tabernacle Baptist Church in Chesterfield, VA.

Initially, Reverend House viewed the COVID-19 vaccine similarly to his decision to not receive the flu vaccine.  They are both viruses, right?  You receive some active dead virus for the flu virus to build antibodies to fight the flu.  Reverend House looked collectively for the common ground to make an informed decision.  He reports he took comfort in hearing from professionals and the CDC website that reports “none of the authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines or COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.”

This statement and reassurance from professionals helped to decrease his fear of getting ill due to the vaccination.  He shared with us that like many others, he hoped that COVID-19 would “just go away” and eliminate his need to make a decision.  Unfortunately, time has shown that even our best human efforts to fight COVID-19 with mask wearing, remaining 6 feet apart, and social distancing is not enough to stop the spread.  Reverend House has adapted well to the mask wearing mandate and takes his style to the next level in wearing a comfortable and appropriate mask for each occasion.

Reverend House shared that he recognized the need to look for the collective effort of information and implementation of our leaders for their example of following best practices, learning from our history and looking towards today which can move him and minorities to change now and for the future.

When asked, “what would you say to someone that is fearful about receiving the vaccine?” Reverend House responded he wants to offer hope, he stated “we need to acknowledge the past but find ways to move forward and make a change today.” He is looking forward to taking a courageous step to build confidence that could lead to systemic change.  He recognizes there are unknowns, real fears and concerns however, in his process he can clearly see there are more pros than cons. He stated, “someone has to start it” and he is glad he can play a part for the next step in unity.

We want to sincerely thank Reverend House for his vulnerability and transparency for sharing his reasons for getting the vaccine.  This is a great example of how the healthcare community is taking steps to unite for the greater good.

What Clinicians Want You to Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine

By: Patricia Hudak, RN and Chelsea Cassidy, LCSW

The COVID-19 vaccine has landed in the United States and has been granted approval for emergency use. Many want to know what to expect in the next coming days, weeks and months. But our biggest question is… How safe is it?

What does emergency use mean?

Hearing this can often create a sense of fear or doubt that the vaccine was created too quickly and could cause more harm than protection. Our Pfizer source reports that the reason this vaccine could be developed at a high speed was due to government funding and stimulation that other projects would be outsourced to competitors. If any companies involved in the agreement were to take the lead on the development of the vaccine, then those projects that were outsourced would return to Pfizer. This puts the human condition before corporate success.

Emergency use does not mandate that we all receive the vaccine. This allows it to remain a choice.  However, what is in the best interest of our fellow man? As Dr. G. Mehfoud pointed out so clearly, “What other choice do we have to stop the spread of the virus? This is the best option to stop COVID-19.“  When the opportunity is available for him, he will proudly and courageously roll up his sleeve and receive his inoculation.

The trail participants included 40,000 people and 60 days’ worth of data. This may make you feel uneasy or leery with limited data, however; this is also an exciting time to part of history.

What to expect when your opportunity arises:

The Virginia Department of Health reports that clinicians will be notified by your agency when you can register to receive the vaccine through VAMS (Vaccine Administration Management System).

Your agency will have already provided your credentials, so you only need to bring your photo ID.

After administration, you will receive a flyer to register for VSAFE. This is an application or online website that will monitor your side effects. After the first dose, minimal if any side effects have been reported up to this time.

You will record your side effects daily for seven days on VSAFE, weekly thereafter for six weeks. It will reset itself after you receive the second dose, which is between 21-28 days after the first dose.

Recipients will continue to be monitored by VSAFE at 3, 6 and 12 months.

Higher risk of side effects has been reports after the second dose. Those with side effects have experienced fever, malaise and arthralgia. It is recommended stagger administration for staffing, if possible and perhaps taking off the following day after receiving second dose.

The three main points the CDC is monitoring after an individual has received the vaccine are if you had to miss work, unable to complete normal activities (ADLs) and if you required medical attention post vaccine.

The vaccine is free of charge. The timeline for how long it is effective is unknown – Months? Years? Indefinitely? Many of these answers remain unknown and time will be the revealer.

Many people wonder if after inoculated, do they need to continue to wear a mask? The answer is yes.  You are still able to spread the virus after being inoculated and will have to follow quarantine guidelines if you are exposed.

Because we are in an emergency phase, it warrants noting that things will be ever-changing. Please continue to give grace to yourself and those you encounter as we are experiencing this vaccine together for the first time. Let’s focus on what we can do towards healing and creating a healthier future.

Personal benefits to receiving the vaccine:

While there may be some concern surrounding receiving the newly released COVID-19 vaccine, routine process and procedures remain in place to ensure the safety of anyone who receives it. Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine can help combat certain aspects of your life that COVID-19 has affected/will affect.

  • Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine can help prevent an illness that could lead to future health complications or loss of workdays due to an illness.
  • Protecting your loved ones is important now, more than ever. Receiving the vaccine can help relieve some of stress of contracting the virus from/giving the virus to your loved ones.
  • The COVID-19 vaccination will be an important tool to help stop the pandemic. As more and more people receive the vaccine, we will be one step closer to normalcy.

Supporting Assisted Living Facilities During COVID-19

Happy National Assisted Living Week!

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change our daily lives, assisted living facilities continue to take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of their residents and employees. While keeping your loved ones safe might mean you cannot connect in person, here are some ways to support facility residents and employees from a safe distance.

  • Get artsy. Spending the afternoon drawing pictures, painting windows, or snapping some fun photos are all great ways to get creative and share uplifting moments with residents. This can be a great way to engage children of all ages or to turn your talent into the highlight of someone’s day.
  • Become a Pen Pal. Since residents are socializing less due to the pandemic, starting a pen pal friendship with someone in an assisted living facility is a great way to communicate and share stories while practicing social distancing. This is the next best thing to in-person conversations!
  • Send a special delivery. You can never go wrong with sending a surprise package to support both staff and residents! Any sort of delivery – snacks, flowers, games, care packages, etc. – will brighten the day of anyone in an assisted living facility.
  • Coordinate a window visit. Sit outside, have a conversation, and share your smile with your loved one in a facility. You can play an instrument for them, talk on the phone, or even play a game – just to name a few!
  • Shoot a video. Creating a fun video of loved ones saying ‘hello,’ sharing words of encouragement, or acting out a skit are all directions you could take when shooting a video to share with those in assisted living facilities.

Whether it’s a photo of your playful dog, writing a letter sharing an uplifting story, or sending a bouquet of flowers for the front desk to display, it may be just the boost of happiness someone in an assisted living facility needs during this time. As we celebrate National Assisted Living Week, we encourage you to reach out to both residents and staff members with acts of kindness, reminding them of your support and love during these times.

How COVID-19 Affects Diabetes

By: Portia Wofford

Physicians, scientists, and researchers are still learning about COVID-19 and its effects on the body. As they study the impact coronavirus has on different illnesses and disease processes, diabetes is getting attention. The CDC notes that having Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Because people with diabetes are at an increased risk for developing infections, they should take precautions to protect themselves against COVID-19.

Complications from diabetes related to COVID-19

Currently, there isn’t enough research or evidence to prove that diabetics are at an increased risk for COVID-19. However, if your diabetes isn’t well-controlled, you could have worse complications if you contract coronavirus. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), when diabetics don’t manage their diabetes and blood sugars, they are at risk for diabetes- related complications. Additionally, other conditions —such as heart or lung disease — and diabetes worsens the chance of you getting sick from COVID-19 because your body’s immune system is compromised. A recent study showed patients with COVID-19 and diabetes who had high blood sugars were more likely to have longer hospital stays.

If you do get COVID-19, the virus could put you at higher risk for sepsis  and diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Sepsis is a complication of COVID-19, which causes widespread inflammation throughout your body and can shut down organs. DKA happens when high levels of acid (ketones) are in your blood.

  • It’s hard to manage your fluid and electrolytes level in DKA.
  • DKA makes it difficult to maintain your fluid and electrolyte levels.
  • This makes treating sepsis hard because DKA causes you to lose electrolytes.

In addition to diabetes-related complications, diabetics also have a risk of developing other complications of COVID-19, such as pneumonia, organ failure, and kidney injury.

Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and Coronavirus

According to the CDC, people at any age with Type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Based on the CDC, the ADA warns that people with Type 1 or gestational diabetes might also be at an increased risk. The ADA states it’s important for any person with either type of diabetes to manage their diabetes. Those who already have diabetes-related health problems are likely to have worse outcomes if they contract COVID-19 than diabetics who are otherwise healthy.

Tips to avoid infection

  1. Stay home as much as possible
  2. Monitor your blood sugar regularly. Maintaining optimal blood glucose, as determined by your healthcare team, is important in preventing severe complications to COVID-19.
  3. Wash your hands
  4. Avoid sick people
  5. Wear a mask
  6. Check-in with your doctors, via telehealth. Most providers schedule telehealth visits—rather than in-person visits. Ask your provider if he or she offers this service.
  7. Exercise. Try exercising at home. Walk around your neighborhood, but be sure to social distance. Right now, there are exercises and workout plans online where you can follow along.
  8. Wash your hands. Wash your hand with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you as well.
  9. Wear a mask and social distance. CDC recommends at least 6 feet apart.
  10. Eat a healthy diet:
  • Eat foods low in sugar
  • Limit foods high in sugar, carbohydrates, and fat
  • Try lean proteins instead of fried foods
  • Don’t forget your green, leafy vegetables

If your glucose readings change because of changes in your diet and activity level, speak with your healthcare team before making any adjustments to your insulin or other medications.

Your COVID-19 diabetes plan

Because of social distancing and shelter-in-place rules, it may be harder for you to get your supplies.

Stock up on enough supplies to last you for a couple of weeks, in case you get quarantined:

  • Healthy food
  • Simple carbs like honey, fruit juice, or hard candies in case your blood sugar dips
  • Make sure you have a 30 day supply of insulin and other medicine
  • Extra strips and batteries for your glucometer
  • Extra glucagon and ketone strips
  • Diabetes alert bracelet or necklace

Keep your home health team updated on your plans, and if you notice any COVID-19 symptoms be sure to alert your home health nurse.

What to do if you get sick

Be sure you know the signs and symptoms of COVID-19:

  • Cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Fever or chills
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Muscle or body aches

Notify your AT Home Care nurse , with your most recent blood glucose readings, if you have any of these symptoms. Symptoms can range from mild to severe illness, and appear 2-14 days after exposure to COVID-19.

Portia Wofford is an award-winning nurse, writer, and digital marketer. After dedicating her nursing career to creating content and solutions for employers that affected patient outcomes, these days Portia empowers health related businesses to grow their communities through engaging content that connects and converts. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter for her latest.

Our COVID-19 Response: A Letter from Our CEO Mike McMaude

To the Abode Healthcare Community,

I hope this note finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy. The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting each of us in different ways. As we navigate the current situation together, I want to provide an update on the steps we have taken to be there for our community, our employees, and our patients.

All of us at Abode Healthcare are focused on providing the highest quality of care to our patients. I provided an update at the end of March outlining the changes we implemented to prioritize safe patient care in this new environment. Every decision we have made, and continue to make, has been based on the priority of the health and wellbeing of our patients and employees.

I am deeply grateful for our employees who display incredible dedication by continuing to fulfill their commitment to our patients during this especially challenging time. These individuals, and everyone working on the frontlines of care, deserve to feel protected, confident, and taken care of.

In recent weeks we have made informed decisions and taken actions that ultimately support and benefit our entire community:

  • PPE: At the first sign of COVID-19, we prioritized spending where it’s needed most and to date, have purchased $1 million of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) so no one reported to work without protection. I’m proud to say that we’ve not had to turn down any patients due to lack of PPE. We’ve even been able to assist other homecare and hospice organizations, and hospitals serving the Navajo nation as well as other underserved populations, in providing supplies for their employees by donating thousands of PPE items. In addition to our company’s commitment, several executives on our team have made personal PPE donations for local health organizations so they can work safely.
  • Paid Leave: To support employees who risk their own health and safety to care for patients, we instituted a special paid-time-off policy modeled after the Families First Coronavirus Response Act designated for companies with fewer than 500 employees. In Abode’s plan, employees receive unlimited leave for issues relating to COVID-19, including a newly instituted emergency paid time off (EPTO) benefit that is in addition to the PTO employees accrue with regular benefits. These additional benefits allow employees to potentially recover from COVID-19, care for a family member who is ill with the virus, or care for children whose schools and daycares have closed.
  • Business Investment: Rather than cut back, we’ve leaned into the business to make sure that we are even better prepared to care for patients. Some of these actions include:
    • Building out our telehealth and remote care solutions
    • Retaining a dedicated, talented workforce
    • Hiring new employees and growing our team locally and nationally
    • Expanding our team’s knowledge with the addition of an infectious disease physician, Dr. Shannon Thorn
  • Charitable Donations: As we have every year, we continue to support charitable organizations in our communities. That will not stop just because of COVID-19. Support for neighbors, near and far, is needed now more than ever.

I am extremely proud of how everyone at Abode has reacted and handled the unique situation that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented. It’s difficult to adequately express my appreciation for our community—patients, employees, and partners. I have been reminded, once again, what an incredible organization we have—one that is driven by a common purpose of caring for, and serving, vulnerable patients. Every member of our team has come together to do what’s right, and I thank you. We look forward to continuing to work together and supporting each other through this challenging time.

Stay safe and healthy,

Mike