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Nursing homes adjust to no visitors policy

T-R file photo Residents and staff at Bickford Cottage are adjusting to policies put in place to protect them from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Administrators at two of Marshalltown’s nursing homes have taken advice to heart keeping the deadly COVID-19 pandemic away from their highly vulnerable residents. They have developed creative alternatives to keep residents active without visitors.

Iowa Veterans Home 

“We are doing just fine,” commandant Timon Oujiri said. “We are trying to make sure the coronavirus does not get inside IVH. We have had nearly one week’s experience dealing with this and are making changes as needed.”

With nearly 500 residents and 900 employees, the state-managed facility can ill afford an outbreak.

On March 15, Oujiri received notification from the federal government banning visitors from the multi-acre campus and its buildings. Shortly after, signs alerting visitors to the new policy were posted on every door at every entrance to campus buildings. The commandant said a large majority of visitors are honoring the policy.

Oujiri said residents are doing well with the changes. 

Staff has become creative in keeping residents active without visitors and without usual socializing at meals. 

Meals are now delivered to each of the facility’s five main buildings or units. 

“Staff are taking activities up to resident’s rooms,” he said. “We have ordered more electronics so residents can Face Time,  Skype or Facebook message with family and friends. We now have devotions conducted by our chaplains twice a day, versus once per day pre-coronoavirus. The twice-daily devotions are available to all residents on our closed-circuit television systems.”

Staff has taken many changes in stride, Oujiri said. 

“We have assigned staff on duty to remain in a particular building or unit, just like we asked residents not to travel between units,” he said. “Staff have had a great attitude with all of the major changes. We have implemented many changes for residents and staff well being. But the mission is simple: Keep the coronavirus out.”

Bickford Cottage 

The retirement and assisted living facility on New Castle Road issued a no visitors policy March 15, director Bianca Greazel said. 

Since then, Greazel and staff have been busy assisting residents’ use of telephones, Facebook messaging, Skype and Face Time to connect with families and friends — many who live out of state. 

“While a large majority of our residents come from the Marshalltown area and Central Iowa communities, their friends and families do not,” Greazel said.

Bickford Cottage has been innovative in the use of the facility bus.

“We use it to meet family and friends who come to get reports on a family member inside,” Greazel said.

The colorful and large bus also doubles as a space to interview prospective employees. 

Inside the bus is cozy and homey with plenty of welcome signs and photos. 

“Once the coronavirus pandemic safely passes we will use it again to take our residents on outings,” she said. 

In addition to the no visitors policy, Bickford Cottage monitors each resident daily for signs, symptoms and temperatures.

Only essential health care professionals will be admitted to Bickford Cottage. All professionals must meet the facility’s stringent infection control procedures. 

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Contact Mike Donahey at

mdonahey@timesrepublican.com 

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