England Homes for the Deaf Earns Highest Rating on State COVID‐19 Assessment
Non-Profit NEHD among 63% of Homes to Earn “In Adherence” Rating on Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Nursing Facility Infection Control Competency Checklist
Danvers, Mass. – New England Homes for the Deaf (NEHD), a non-profit offering a continuum of care to Deaf, Deafblind and hard-of-hearing seniors since 1901, today announced an update on its months-long efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 among its residents, staff and community. The facility recently earned the highest rating on the Massachusetts Nursing Facility Infection Control Competency Checklist, introduced by Governor Charlie Baker in late April. The checklist evaluates facility response to COVID-19 in the categories of infection control, personal protective equipment (PPE), staffing, clinical care and communication. NEHD was among 228 of 360 nursing homes in the state to earn the top rating, “in adherence.”
With 81 beds in its rest home and skilled nursing facilities, and another 25 residents in independent living apartments and a staff of 83 dedicated employees, NEHD has long had an infectious disease plan in place. The organization has an infection preventionist on staff and began escalating its response to COVID-19 in early March. Initial steps included extensive social distancing protocols and aggressive efforts to procure PPE, despite nursing homes being deemed a tier-three priority for such essential materials. NEHD canceled group activities, closed dining rooms, barred visitors and vendors from entering its buildings, and implemented daily temperature and symptom monitoring for staff. Upon news of its first positive case in mid-April, NEHD invited the National Guard in to test every employee and resident. Through a state program, the National Guard has since returned multiple times to test any resident showing symptoms.
As of this writing ,NEHD is now COVID -19 free. NEHD shares data and other communications with family members on a regular basis. The administration’s goal is to keep residents’ loved ones informed and also connected to residents, even though they can’t be physically together.
“Being Deaf is hard in the best of circumstances, but being Deaf during a pandemic has a unique set of challenges. I am so grateful to the New England Home for the Deaf for the care they gave my Deaf relative. He was locked in a world of silence most of his life, and when he was finally able to move into NEHD, it was like a breath of fresh air,” said Sheryl McWillaims, of an NEHD resident who died of COVID-19 in May. “During his final days, the social worker made sure we were able to talk with him even though the facility was on lockdown. The nursing staff, managers and social worker went out of their way to make sure I knew exactly what was happening and that his final moments were peaceful. I will be eternally grateful for the communication and care he received at the end. Thank you to each one of the staff who are putting themselves on the line every day to ensure that these vulnerable people have the care that they need.”
Shelley Silverman, executive director of New England Homes for the Deaf, said, “NEHD has implemented every known strategy to mitigate the threat of COVID-19 to our residents and employees. Even with the most stringent protections in place, our community has not been spared the pain of this highly contagious virus. We mourn the victims of this disease, and we’re grateful for the recovery of those who were ill.”
NEHD thanks the following organizations and individuals for their support:
· The Boston Harbor Distillery and Smoky Quartz Distillery for their donations of 70% denatured alcohol, and to the volunteers who mixed these donations with aloe and lavender to make hand sanitizer, one of the first essential protections to disappear from vendor inventory;
· The Massachusetts Association of Residential Convalescent Homes (MARCH) for helping NEHD find KN95 masks, disposable gowns, gloves and coveralls from sources all over the North Shore and beyond;
· Gloucester Education Foundation, which donated 60 face shields manufactured on 3-D printers at Gloucester High School and O’Malley Innovation Middle School;
· Students at the Beverly School for the Deaf and children across the region, who made cards for socially distanced NEHD residents;
· Numerous families and community members who have donated funds and care packages;
· Individual crafters from Andover, North Andover, Gloucester and surrounding areas, as well as residents’ families, who sewed cloth masks and surgical caps for residents and staff; and
· Feed the Fight Boston and Danvers Rotary for donating food to our nurses, nursing assistants, interpreters and other staff working on the frontline of this pandemic.
NEHD continues to accept donations of PPE for residents and employees, and is hiring nurses and certified nursing assistants (CNAs). Click here for more information.
About New England Homes for the Deaf (NEHD)
New England Homes for the Deaf, founded in 1901, is a life plan community that offers a continuum of care to Deaf, Deafblind and Hard-of-hearing seniors, including independent living, rest home, skilled nursing community, Deaf senior centers, short-term rehabilitation services, respite care services and hospice care.
The mission of New England Homes for the Deaf is to provide long-term healthcare, housing, recreational activities and social support for deaf, deafblind and hard-of-hearing individuals in an accessible, barrier-free and culturally sensitive environment with optimal communication and architectural resources. Visit us at NEHD.org or on Facebook.
NEHD Executive Director