KEEPING OUR SENIORS SAFE:Assisted living homes make adjustments amid COVID-19 outbreak

Published 12:05 am Saturday, March 21, 2020

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

LAPLACE — Ruth Clement had a chance to see her family at Twin Oaks Nursing & Rehab Home this week — outside of the building, safely separated by several feet of distance, a row of bushes and a small fence.

Other residents have talked to their loved ones through videos calls using tablets provided by the facility. It’s all part of finding a new normal, at least for a little while, as the staff of nursing and assisted living facilities across the River Region strive to keep their seniors safe from COVID-19.

As of press time Friday, no Twin Oaks / Maison Oaks Assisted Living residents are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, and every staff member will continue to be monitored for fever, coughing and shortness of breath.

Staff is taking necessary precautions to protect loved ones. All personal laundry is being done at the facility without exceptions, and no outside food or beverages can be brought into the building.

Dentists, podiatrists, eye doctors and other specialists will not be allowed to visit the facility at this time, according to an email to families. Mail is being delivered to residents at least 24 hours after receipt to limit the potential spread of the virus.

In an earlier email, coordinators said the Centers for Medicare Medicaid Services instructed nursing homes to suspend group activities and communal dining nationwide. While visitors are not being permitted inside the building, staff has provided residents with tablets to video chat with families. Apple users are encouraged to use FaceTime, while Android users may download Facebook Messenger or Google Duo.

Similar considerations are being taken across the region.

Mike Schonberg, president of Schonberg Care, said Ashton Manor Assisted Living & Memory Care in Luling and other Schonberg facilities are following the guidance of health directors and the CDC concerning senior care.

Visitation restrictions are strictly enforced with screening procedures that include a temperature check and questionnaire. According to Schonberg, Ashton Manor and other facilities are only allowing visitor entrance for end-of-life visits. Even then, visitors have to pass stringent screening standards.

Each day, the dedicated staff willingly submits to screening to ensure they pose no risk to the residents they care for. Schonberg himself has been screened during every visit to various facilities.

“One of the things we are very proud of at Schonberg Care is our core value that all decisions we make are in the best interest of the residents,” he said. “If we do that, we know we’re making the right decision.”

The main challenge, according to Schonberg, is ensuring the quality of life and high standards of living residents are accustomed to are not interrupted during this time. Staff keeps residents occupied and provides ample opportunities for them to meet with family through scheduled video calls.

At one Schonberg facility, family members visited a resident on the opposite side of the fence, keeping at least a 20-foot distance. Personal interaction is still possible, but requires increasingly creative and proactive solutions.

Activity directors are keeping patients occupied while following social distancing recommendations. Directors may meet with residents one-on-one to engage them with card games, drawing or painting.

Schonberg said the community is invited to send cards, letters and pictures to the seniors to let them know they are not forgotten. Addresses to facilities are available at

“We are trying to change the way that society views senior living communities. In doing that, we want to remind everyone out there that our seniors are valuable. They’re vibrant, and they have a lot of living left to do even after they come to our assisted living or senior living homes,” Schonberg said. “They have a lot to offer all of us every day. We couldn’t be happier to be taking care of these seniors as we go through these difficult times.”