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‘Just a matter of time:’ Senior care director talks COVID-19 outbreaks & prevention

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Future in Focus: Sun Valley

Lori Eberharter, the executive director at a Hailey senior living facility says she has gone eight months without a resident case but asks “is it just a matter of time?”

Eberharter’s question is common. Nursing homes and senior care facilities have been making headlines throughout the pandemic because of outbreaks and deaths from COVID-19.

Extra measures to prevent outbreaks

In response, Silvercreek Assisted Living and Memory Care took additional precautions above the state guidelines to protect its residents. Silvercreek implemented a new COVID-19 communication system that sends updates to loved ones. It allows visitors if the state’s current phase allows them – but requires masks, a six-foot distance, and no physical contact are all requirements during visits. 

“We are a small facility. The state says ‘this is what you have to do and here’s the gray areas and it’s at your discretion to either be more forceful or more relaxed,” Tessa Wilson New Haven/Silvercreek Assisted Living and Memory Cares Director of Operations said. “And so, for me, with COVID being unknown to the entire world, I kind of stepped it up and went a little more above and beyond.”

Since Eberharter came to the facility eight months ago, they know of no residents who have come into contact with the coronavirus. She does not know the exact number of residents who contracted the virus before her time. 

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Some employees have either tested positive or were in close contact. This and just working in a high-risk work environment caused staffing issues. But Silvercreek’s protocol and COVID-19 pay have helped with this problem.

“Right before Lori came along we had staff dropping like flies basically because of the unknown,” Wilson said. “… But then we want to introduce this new pay grade for COVID. Which was nice for us to be able to do because of our size, we are not government funded.”

Working in a care facility amid COVID

Fighting back tears, Eberharter spoke about how hard it has been working at a senior care facility these past months. But says seeing employees step up and give these residents extra love when family can’t come to visit is heartwarming. 

“We are the people they see regularly. They miss their daughter, they miss their son, the grandchildren that whole life they used to have,” Eberharter said. “So we kind of have put ourselves out a little more. Being vulnerable to them and loving them more and loving them in a different kind of way because that’s all they have right now.”

With no end to the pandemic insight and cases on the rise, Eberharter and Wilson have become more and more concerned about the well-being of the seniors who have hardly seen their loved ones over the past several months.

Autum Robertson
Autum is a BoiseDev reporter focused on Ketchum, McCall and general news. Contact her at autum@boisedev.com.

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