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Friday, November 20, 2020 Update

Just like the news you have all undoubtedly been following about the increase in COVID cases throughout all the counties in NJ, RCH has been affected as well, albeit in a manageable way at this time. This week has been extremely busy with several updates to provide, so we have segmented this email into sections:

Recap of Weekly Testing Status

  •  Sunday, November 15 – One skilled nursing staff member tested positive via a rapid test obtained in the community. (Test at RCH earlier that week was negative so the infection was caught early). This staff member remains under quarantine at home.
  • Monday, November 16 – One skilled staff member who tested positive two weeks prior returned to work. However, since the two staff overlapped within a 2-week period, we are considered in an “outbreak” per Department of Health definitions.
  • Thursday, November 18 – One assisted living staff member was determined positive based on weekly testing. This staff member remains under quarantine at home. Since there is only one staff member in assisted living that is COVID-positive, it is not considered an outbreak and communal dining can continue, of course with increased precautions.

As a result of the above, we are presently closed to indoor visitation for both skilled nursing and assisted living. But there is some good news:

  • Skilled Nursing will have Patio Chats on Thanksgiving Day and Friday, November 26 from the skilled nursing garden in the back of the building. Patio Chats will also be held on Saturday November 27 for skilled residents from the AL patio and garden. Please go to https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10C0D4EA4AE28A1FCC61-patio1  to see all available dates and times.
  • Assisted Living will have Patio Chats on Thanksgiving Day and Friday, November 26 from the AL patio and garden in the back of the building. Please contact Alberta at aromaniello@rchnj.org to schedule a Patio Chat or if you have other questions.  

Roof Project Underway

Very important: Please be aware that we are currently replacing our roof and this project will be ongoing over the next 2-3 weeks. We realize this is not ideal timing but the project must be completed before winter sets in. We ask that all staff, vendors, and families that may be near the building be extremely careful. We cannot prevent small debris from blowing off the roof during the windy weather we have been having. So please pay particular attention when near the front entrance, during Patio Chats, etc. Thank you for your understanding!

Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization (NPBI) Technology Comes to RCH

We wish to inform all our families, residents, and staff of an important step we have taken to improve air quality in our building. We recently installed an NPBI system from Global Plasma Solutions (GPS), which works through our ventilation system in all common areas, alcoves, and corridors throughout the building. NPBI is an air cleaning system that uses ions to disrupt surface proteins of the pathogens they come in contact with, reducing the volume of infectious pathogens by deactivating them. The system also improves the efficiency of filtration. Independent tests have determined the GPS system reduces harmful pathogens, including COVID-19, but all standard PPE and safety measures (masks, social distancing, hand washing) are essential. We felt it was important to make this investment to do everything possible to reduce exposure to the coronavirus in our building. We will post more information on this technology in the next few days.

Thank you all so much for your patience, and for reading this very long email! Our goal, as always, is to be completely transparent and keep everyone up to date on what is happening in our building, which we trust offers some peace of mind at this difficult time.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020 Update

An important and timely article was just published on NorthJersey.com, a USA Today website, titled "NJ COVID: Don't take your loved ones out of nursing homes for Thanksgiving, officials plead." It includes a summary of important guidance that the NJ State Department of Health provided to all providers on Monday, November 16 regarding the upcoming holiday season. We will follow the stated procedure if a resident leaves the building for a family gathering (upon return, the resident will need to quarantine for 14 days until we are sure no COVID symptoms emerge.) Read the full article here.

We know this Thanksgiving will be like no other, and ask that families carefully consider the risks of bringing your loved one home. Our activities department will continue with Patio Chats and Skype calls during the Thanksgiving week as much as possible. Thank you so much for your understanding and cooperation with this very difficult request that the State has instructed for all senior living environments.

Monday, November 16, 2020 Update

We were informed on November 15 that one of our staff members tested positive for COVID based on a rapid test that was done off-site. Due to this unfortunate circumstance we are currently considered by Department of Health standards as in an “outbreak.” (An outbreak is defined as 2 or more staff members or 1 resident testing positive. Another staff member tested positive almost 2 weeks ago.) 

As per state regulations and Reformed Church Home’s Outbreak Plan (which you can read here) the following precautionary steps will be taken immediately to help ensure the safety of all:

  • Communal dining is on hold and all skilled residents will resume tray services to their rooms or alcoves starting with Breakfast on Monday morning.
  • All skilled residents will be tested today and weekly under the guidelines.
  • Non-essential medical consulting services (podiatry, dentist, etc.) will temporarily be restricted.
  • Our nurse practitioner will coordinate services for anyone requiring emergency or essential care.
  • We will limit visits of residents to doctor’s offices for essential appointments only. We can take advantage of telemedicine if necessary.
  • Indoor visitation will remain suspended until we have 14 days with no new positive COVID cases. In the interim, we will honor any appointments already scheduled this week as Patio Chats. The Patio Chat schedule with remaining openings for this week and next week is now available at: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10C0D4EA4AE28A1FCC61-patio1
    (PLEASE NOTE: FRIDAY Patio Chats will take place from the Skilled Nursing garden, with residents at the 1st floor dining room windows. All other Patio Chats will be from the AL patio/garden. Any questions, please contact Amy Wendel at awendel@rchj.org.)

We understand this news is disappointing and nothing you/we wanted to hear on a Monday morning. Please know that we will remain vigilant and use what we have learned over the past 8 months to protect our residents, staff, and families however possible. Thank you for your understanding and support.

Friday, October 23, 2020 Update

We are gratified to report that for the third week in a row, we have had no new positive cases reported among residents or staff. As a result, we are able to pilot a move back to the skilled nursing dining rooms, beginning with the second floor. Ten tables with Plexiglas dividers will be in place, with each table accommodating 2 residents. Next week we will have more information on additional dining updates. 

As many of you may know, earlier this week the New Jersey Department of Health announced plans for nursing home facilities to begin reopening to indoor visitation as the weather turns colder. There are still many points requiring clarification but it is finally a step in the right direction! Our team continues to meet to define our policies and procedures. In-services are planned next week with industry leaders to define best practices. 

Assisted living residents continue to enjoy meals in the dining rooms and small group activities. Indoor AL visitation is going well, and 5 appointments were booked via SignUpGenius.com.  

A highlight of the week was our Halloween Fly-By Parade…we wish to thank so many families for taking the time to participate in full costume and with decorated vehicles. 

Friday, October 17, 2020 Update

Because of the Columbus Day holiday, testing for residents and staff took place a bit later than usual, but as of Friday afternoon, October 17, all results have been negative! We have passed an important milestone – 14 days without a COVID-positive test in skilled nursing. Now the challenge is to make it through an additional 14 days (per NJ Department of Health guidelines) so that we can progress to Phase 1 of reopening, which will allow us to serve in the dining rooms (with social distancing) and small group activities. Please check back for further updates.

 Friday, October 9, 2020 Update

We have good news to share…as of today, we have had no new staff cases this week, and all employees that had tested positive over the past few weeks have been able to return to work. Note that these recent staff cases were likely false positives, which is a silver lining of sorts. Former British football (soccer) player Maurice Setter showed great insight when he remarked: “Many people miss the silver lining because they are looking for gold.” We aren’t taking any bit of good news for granted these days!  

We remain grateful for each small victory in the battle against COVID.

We still await clear direction from the NJ Department of Health regarding changes to visitation policies as the weather starts to turn colder. As soon as we receive the information, we will share it on our website and email it to our families.

Sunday, October 4, 2020 Update

We do want you to be aware that we received word on Friday afternoon of a positive test result in an skilled nursing administrative staff member (who does not interact with residents).  This person is asymptomatic and will quarantine at home for the necessary 10 days.

AL residents continue to enjoy the dining room and small group activities within their circles.  We had expected to hear an update from Governor Murphy’s office at 5 pm Friday regarding new visitation guidance for nursing homes, but that never transpired. We are disappointed of course but hope to hear something early this week.

Friday, September 25, 2020 Update

This week, things have remained substantially the same at Reformed Church Home, although we did have one asymptomatic staff member test positive as determined by the weekly screening process. No residents are positive at this time, and previous staff home on quarantine have been cleared to return to work, which is a double blessing!

We and many other nursing facilities in the state are concerned about the potential for false positive tests to be affecting our ability to move through the phases of reopening. Until a change is made to the guidelines, we must wait and comply with the state regulations. At this point, Skilled Nursing remains in Phase 0, while Assisted Living is in Phase 1 (which allows for meals in the dining room with adequate partitioning and social distancing, as well as some small group activities.) Stay tuned for more information as things evolve.

Friday, September 18, 2020 Update

The weather turned a bit cooler this week making for pleasant outdoor activities such as two outdoor concerts with talented singers. Silver Linings at Old Bridge, the local senior center, came by with the Mayor and staff to drop off hand-crocheted pocket scarves for each of our residents. This was a service project for Senior Center Month and we are so happy to be the recipients. Our art instructor, Nina, is back doing one on one art classes/painting on canvas. Check out our Facebook page for more details about all the ways our fabulous Activities staff has been brightening the days for our residents. Here’s what else is going on in the Home:

Testing continued this week, but fortunately we have not identified any new or additional cases!  The skilled nursing resident who tested positive early last week has been cleared as of today, which is wonderful news. At present, two staff members remain home on quarantine and doing well. 

  • The AL dining rooms – which opened on September 9 fully decked out with balloons and decorations – had a temporary closure this week, to be extra vigilant. But they are scheduled to reopen on Monday, so long as there are no cases reported over the weekend. 
  • As part of our Outbreak Response Plan, we now have a toll-free number for families to call in with questions and concerns related to COVID-19. This number is: (848) 230-6427. Callers can leave a message on this line day or night, and a manager will address your concerns and/or call you to answer your question. Please note that typical medical questions and inquiries about residents should still be directed to the Unit Manager or the appropriate department. The receptionist can help direct your call. The toll-free number is for non-urgent calls but the messages will be checked frequently.

Saturday, September 12, 2020 Update

Unfortunately, we learned this morning of another staff member that has tested positive from the employee screening tests taken on Thursday. So at this time, we have 1 resident and 4 staff members that tested positive. However, 2 staff members from last week that were asymptomatic have now tested negative and are able to return to work next week. 

We are in close contact with the Department of Health to ensure we are implementing all necessary procedures in this uptick. Thankfully, we are so much better prepared than the early months of the pandemic, now having the testing capabilities, sanitizing protocols, PPE inventory, and policies in place. We will post additional updates on our website as necessary.

Friday, September 11, 2020 Update

Yesterday, we shared that a resident has tested positive for COVID-19. One staff member that has interacted with this resident has also tested positive based on results received today, so this employee is quarantining at home. The good news is that we have the ability to test all residents and staff at least once per week and we know at this time no other positive cases are in the building, and we can quickly screen individuals if deemed necessary or if symptoms arise.

We know this is not the update anyone wanted to hear, especially today, which already has a somber note. But we have learned through the past 19 years, and the past 6 months in particular, that we are resilient! Just like in the months after September 11, 2001, we will look back in amazement at all the things that can be accomplished when we come together to help each other, especially in caring for our residents when they need us most. Take care and stay safe.

Thursday, September 10, 2020 Update

Late today, we received word that a skilled nursing resident who was tested for COVID on Tuesday this week has positive results. All other skilled  nursing residents were also tested on Tuesday, and all were negative. We have implemented all cleaning, sanitizing, PPE use, and preventative measures as per CMS guidelines and are awaiting further guidance from the department of health. One thing we do know is that we will need to wait a total of 28 days before progressing from the Phase 0 regulations we currently have in place to Phase 1 activities in skilled nursing. 

Please note that many staff members were tested on Tuesday as part of our weekly screening. No new staff members were identified as positive. The two employees that tested positive last week (and by the way who subsequently tested negative when re-tested immediately thereafter) did not have any contact at all with the newly-diagnosed resident.

We will keep you posted of any new developments. 

Thursday, September 3, 2020 Update

A lot of headway has been made this week in our efforts to prepare for moving from Phase 0 to Phase 1 of a reopening plan…but unfortunately, we have met with a setback. 

Following testing on Monday August 31, two Skilled Nursing staff members were found COVID-positive – thankfully, neither person has direct contact with residents, both are asymptomatic, and now remain at home. So in order to comply with State guidance, our Skilled Nursing and Rehab floors will remain in Phase 0 for at least 28 days. (We are considered to have an active outbreak, which will be cleared once 14 days have passed from the original positive tests.  We will then need to wait an additional 14 days once the outbreak is considered cleared before we can move from Phase 0 to Phase 1.)  We will resume weekly testing of all residents and will closely monitor for symptoms of infection.  We will continue to put all modifications in place so we are ready to lessen restrictions when the time is right.

Regarding Assisted Living, we have wonderful news! We are continuing our Phase 1 reopening plan, which allows for communal dining (with certain adjustments). The AL dining rooms will be back in use, barring any unforeseen circumstances, on Wednesday, September 9, 2020. Plexiglass dividers are being installed for everyone’s safety, and we will reinforce social distancing, but this return to eating with friends and neighbors will be a welcome change after many months apart! Please note that before we enter Phase 1 next week, all AL staff members will be tested as always during the weekly testing process.

So the bad news is, we are not there yet, but the good news is, we are getting closer. Please keep praying for the success of our reopening plans and for the return to a COVID-free building!

Friday, August 21, 2020 Update

We have had a busy week distilling the guidance from the State of NJ on how we must prepare for advancing from Phase 0 to Phase 1, 2 and 3 of a reopening plan for long term care facilities. We also had an outdoor concert for Assisted Living, a Windowsill Serenade with talented violinists sponsored by Holisticare Hospice, and an art show so residents could display their handywork and admire that of their neighbors.

But the best news is…we have been officially removed from Middlesex County’s Department of Health active outbreak list! An active outbreak is considered concluded when there have been no positive COVID cases in any residents or staff members for 28 days or more, which we reached last week. Nonetheless, it was gratifying to receive the official letter! Now onto more pressing things…

The State requires that a list of 10 components be in place for any long term care facility to advance from Phase 0 to Phase 1, so our current focus is on satisfying that list and submitting documentation that we are ready. Basically, a plan must be devised by each facility that will be followed in case of a future outbreak, including varied communication methods to effectively share information with families and staff, back-up systems to secure staff in the case of a staffing shortage, acquisition of at least 2 months’ worth of PPE, assurance that testing procedures and timelines can be met…and that’s just naming a few key areas.

We hope to be able to share more detailed information on this outbreak response plan and submit it to the State as soon as possible. Please know we are working as fast and as focused as we possibly can to make progression to Phase 1 and 2 a reality. (Note that all NJ facilities are currently considered in Phase 0, and Phase 3 is not yet achievable because the statewide reopening is only in Phase 2.)

Since that’s a lot of information to digest, I’ll leave you with a simple thought from author L.G. Akita...“Neither lose heart nor hope.”  

Friday, August 14, 2020 Update

This week’s update is especially gratifying…

I am happy to report that we have gone more than 30 days without having a COVID-positive resident or staff member! Weekly testing continues, but I want to commend our employees for their dedication to the Home and for taking extra measures to protect themselves when outside the work environment, to ultimately keep our residents as safe as possible. We are blessed with every single staff member that gives unselfishly ever day to care for our wonderful residents.

Many of you may have heard that earlier this week, Governor Murphy’s office released Executive Directive No. 20-026, with detailed guidance for the resumption of services in all long-term care facilities in the state of New Jersey. This guidance relates not only to nursing homes, but also assisted living residences, comprehensive personal care homes, residential healthcare facilities, and dementia care homes. The directive, which is over 40 pages long, outlines the criteria that must be met for any long-term care facility to advance from Phase 0 of reopening (which all facilities are currently in) to Phase 1, 2 or 3. While we are thrilled to have the information we need to begin moving forward, we want you to know that the requirements are extreme and require implementation of many new precautions and procedures.

It will take our team some time to distill the guidelines into a clear roadmap, with contingency plans along the way. Although we are not ready to share any specifics at this time, please know we will reach out very soon with information on potential next steps.

Thank you for your continued support and patience during this unprecedented time. Though we are about to embark on a whole new set of rules to safely care for our vulnerable residents, we will forge ahead with the inspiration of little known poet, novelist, and rock music devotee Ambrose Redmoon, who said: 

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than one's fear." 

Please know that nothing is more important to us than the quality of life and ultimate safety of our residents, as well as the staff and caregivers that help them every day.

 Friday, July 31, 2020 Update

The past month has been filled with weekly COVID testing of all residents and staff. During this period, no residents tested positive; in fact, residents have been COVID-free since June 15 when the last two recovering residents left our COVID isolation wing! In addition, all staff that had been COVID-positive at some point during the past 4 months have now recovered, and all were able to return to work. So at present, the building is COVID-free! Weekly testing continues, and further updates on COVID status will be posted. As of July 28, 2020, the NJ Department of Health updated the travel advisory, citing 34 states from which travelers should quarantine if arriving in NJ (whether as a destination or to return home from a vacation in one of the country's hot spots.) This has affected outdoor visitation if family members have recently traveled, so please call ahead if trying to schedule an outdoor visit. 

Friday, June 26, 2020 Update

Reformed Church Home received a visit today from the New Jersey Department of Health for a surprise inspection, specifically the COVID-19 Focused Infection Control Survey. The Home was found to be deficiency-free, and in compliance with specific state and federal infection control regulations established as a result of COVID-19. We were also was found to have implemented the recommended COVID-19 preparation practices set forth by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Some of the infection control parameters assessed included staff and resident hand washing techniques; sanitation procedures for high-touch surfaces; judicious use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gowns, and gloves; adherence to social distancing guidelines for mealtimes and activities; and implementation of cleaning strategies using products known to protect against viruses for extended periods. We are extremely proud to have been found deficiency free during this crucial survey, as we strive to keep our building COVID-free and our residents safe.

Friday, June 19, 2020 Update, 7 pm -

This afternoon at 4 pm, we received an Executive Directive from Governor Murphy’s office updating the Visitation Guidance for long term care facilities.

 We are very happy to inform you that the restrictions for visitation are changing to allow for outdoor visits on a “by appointment only” basis. We will work diligently to put the proper procedures in place to maintain the safety of our residents, staff, and all family members. As you can imagine, these procedures take time to plan and correctly implement, and it is now our first priority to facilitate visits for our residents who have missed their loved ones so much.

 Although the Governor’s directive suggests that in-person outdoor visitation can begin on June 21, 2020, “provided that the facility implements all of the…safety, care, and infection prevention and control measures,” please understand that this list of requirements is long and complex. For this reason, we are writing to let you know that in order to meet the guidelines and complete the required attestation documents the State requires before visits can begin, we feel we will be prepared to accept visitor appointments starting Wednesday, June 24. Please note that among other limitations, only 2 visitors per resident, per visit, will be allowed per the directive.

We know this is very exciting news, and we appreciate your patience for just a few more days so we can do the work that needs to be done to get this right! We will contact families via email as soon as we are ready to safely reunite our residents and their loved ones in an outdoor location with registration protocols, social distancing, and staffing requirements all in place. Please continue to check our website for updates.

Monday, June 15, 2020 Update -

We have amazing news! Today, the last 2 residents who had been recovering in the COVID wing were discharged, and at this point in time, we have NO residents that are COVID positive. This is such wonderful news and we wanted to share it with all of you who have been praying and sending positive thoughts, caring messages, and unending support!  We also want to recognize the dedicated nursing staff who have consistently given amazing care under such difficult circumstances. Today, we also celebrate the fact that another staff member has been cleared to return to work! 

Moving forward, we will continue to abide by testing requirements and are anticipating further guidance from the state on when and how visitor restrictions can be lifted, testing in the long term, and other directives that are ultimately designed to keep our vulnerable seniors safe. As soon as we have received this guidance, we will send out to our families and post on this website.

Friday, June 5, 2020 Update -

Over the past two weeks, we have conducted many COVID tests among all residents and staff per the new state and federal government regulations, with the goal of identifying any positive individuals, especially those that may be asymptomatic. Ultimately, the goal is to have all individuals in the building test negative, with twice weekly or weekly testing thereafter to ensure the population is stable before we can progress to things like small group activities or socially distant communal dining. If at any point in the process positive tests are received, the process must begin over again. So the next few important weeks will be unpredictable, but we are trying our best and have had good news to report of late.

As of today, most of the residents who tested positive for COVID-19 since mid-March have recovered. Likewise, two-thirds of the staff members that acquired the virus have been cleared to return to work following a period of self-quarantine. 

Based on directives from the Governor of the State of NJ, group activities and communal dining are still prohibited. We await further instructions on the phased approach to reopening the state's nursing homes that will be employed. As we find out more, we will provide updates in our daily family emails, as well as on this site. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2020 Update - 

Reformed Church Home is proud, relieved, and grateful to announce that one of our residents diagnosed COVID positive almost one month ago has now recovered and is a COVID SURVIVOR! The first of our residents to recuperate from this devastating virus, we are actively monitoring additional residents who are being cared for in our isolation wing, where residents found positive or with suspicious symptoms are treated by dedicated nurses and aides. These team members remain with their assignments as needed to prevent cross contamination to other areas of the building. We are also thrilled that 6 of the 11 staff members that tested positive early on have recovered and have been cleared to return to work. Although the challenges remain indefinite as we navigate this new reality, we are encouraged at the bravery of our staff and the resolve of those residents that have been afflicted. They all remain in fairly good spirits, and in most cases symptoms have been mild. As announced by Governor Murphy, all nursing home staff must undergo COVID testing to identify carriers of the virus that should not be working with the residents or in the building, and we have initiated that process as of today. All staff will be tested by the deadline of May 26 as testing kits become available. We fully support this decision, and we have been testing asymptomatic staff on floors in which we have seen new COVID cases to aggressively stay ahead of this disease. We continue to email and call our families as needed (with daily emails to advise of changes in case numbers) to provide specific information, keep the lines of communication open, and let them know we support them and their loved one in this very difficult time. 

Friday, May 1, 2020 Update -

We have had stable numbers for both residents and staff diagnosed as positive for COVID-19 over the previous week, and we continue to update our families via daily emails and also phone calls as necessary to keep everyone updated. We are grateful for the outpouring of support via our Employee Appreciation Fund to help thank those working so hard to care for the residents. We have compiled a wish list of items for residents and staff, which you can access by clicking here. We have had several deliveries of PPE from various sources, and in fact some family members have gone above and beyond in reaching out to their resources to help us. We also expect to receive supplies from the federal government through FEMA, which has now decided to send an allocation of PPE to each nursing home in the country based on typical census and numbers of staff. Our employees are doing everything possible to protect the residents and halt transmission of the virus. Thank you to all for the support we have received from families, local businesses, our board of directors, vendors, and community organizations. It does lessen the load a bit...

Tuesday, April 21, 2020 Update -

Some families may have seen news articles published on April 20 regarding the numbers of residents testing positive or dying from Covid-19 reported by individual nursing homes throughout the state. The numbers were supposed to reflect the daily statistics that nursing homes are self-reporting to the NJ Department of  Health. However, in the case of Reformed Church Home, the numbers were not correct.

An article published in the Asbury Park Press (and summarized in various other online media) stated we had 12 confirmed cases among residents as of April 20, with no deaths. However, our total count has been and continues to be 8 total residents that have tested positive. We reached out to the lead reporter on this story and found that they have received several complaints that the numbers are inaccurate. Stay tuned as we expect an updated article to clarify or explain more about the DOH list.

Since the beginning of this horrible pandemic, we have remained committed to full transparency about the number of cases affecting the home, good or bad. We continue to send over 200 family members daily updates via email, with phone calls as necessary to advise of significant changes in case status, and frequent updates provided to residents and staff.

To protect the residents, we have begun aggressively testing asymptomatic staff members, as more test kits come in. About 1/2 of staff testing positive have no symptoms, so this virus continues to prove both confounding and elusive. Coworkers in each affected department persevere, committed to getting this under control. You may or may not have agreed with his politics, but Newt Gingrich was right on the money when he said this:“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”

We also wanted to thank so many families and vendors for their generous support of our Employee Appreciation Fund and gift card collection. The response has been overwhelming and we intend to acknowledge each of your donations with a personal letter. These will be mailed as soon as possible, so thank you for your patience.Here’s the link again to the  ways you can help the staff. https://reformedchurchhome.com/reformed-church-home/blog/notices-for-visitors/ Thank you for your continued support!

Saturday, April 11, 2020 Update -

We have tried very hard over the past few weeks to keep our families well-informed about the health and well-being of the Reformed Church Home community. No one ever imagined that we as a society would have to deal with a global pandemic that threatens the most vulnerable among us – our elders and those with underlying medical conditions.

The news this past week has been particularly disturbing with regard to infections in nursing homes, particularly in the northern part of our state. As of today, there are over 58,000 positive cases in New Jersey, many among the nursing home population. Although we have remained vigilant, positive cases have been identified at Reformed Church Home, now including in our staff. In order to be completely transparent, we are providing updates via phone calls and emails to our residents and families, and alerting our staff and vendors as well, in accord with regulations set forth by the State of NJ Department of Health. We will continue to share this information whether it improves or worsens at our beloved Home. 

As you can imagine, staffing is limited at this time, but we are committed to serving our residents first and foremost while attending to their physical and emotional needs. Our staff members who remain devoted, resilient, and upbeat. Every department has gone above and beyond – nursing, activities, maintenance, housekeeping, accounting, dining, social services, development, marketing, admissions, and of course Pastor Sam. We are indebted to our Director of Development, Paula LeBlanc, for ensuring the live feed camera that was temporarily down is fixed and functional for the Easter services this weekend. 

Many family members, friends, vendors, and local businesses have so generously donated food, supplies, and gift cards or money to our Employee Appreciation Fund to allow us to have catered lunches, dinners, and other treats, which keeps everyone motivated and upbeat. If you wish to donate to this fund, see more information on our website in the COVID-19 Updates > Notices tab, or contact Paula at 732-607-9230 ext 108.

We wish to ensure families that we are taking every precaution at this time, including:

  • All staff are screened daily with temperature checks and screening questions before each shift.
  • All staff are instructed and ENCOURAGED to stay home if they have any symptoms at all. Those in whom we discover emerging symptoms while at work are immediately sent home.
  • All staff (medical, activities, administration, maintenance, housekeeping, etc.) are required to wear masks. Gowns and gloves are reserved for medical and nursing staff, and for some activities staff as required.
  • We have limited the movement of staff to certain floors/sides of the building, to deter cross contamination.
  • If a resident develops any symptoms of COVID-19, (fever, respiratory issues, cough, sore throat, or GI symptoms), the emergency contact will be notified, we will test the resident if indicated and monitor them closely, update the family, and discharge to the hospital if symptoms warrant it.  

Families are reminded to check their emails for specific updates and to call Reformed Church Home if they have specific questions related to their loved one in our care. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2020, 7:30 pm Update -

At the present time, Reformed Church Home has no confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in the facility. On April 5, we shared information about our isolation wing that has been set up in accordance with CDC and CMS guidelines. This area is presently being used to monitor current residents that have relatively mild respiratory symptoms and also for a few recent hospital admissions to ensure an adequate quarantine period before integrating them into the general population. One nurse per shift is assigned to care for those on the isolation wing, which is blocked off by plastic sheathing to create a barrier. The nurse remains on that wing throughout the shift, so that cross contamination to other parts of the floor or building is avoided. We remain committed to ensuring the health and safety of our residents and staff. The road ahead is long, but we will keep you informed of status changes at the Home. Thank you for your patience and cooperation.

Sunday, April 5, 2020 Update, 3:15 pm -

As the COVID-19 reality hits home for RCH, we want to share some information about our preparedness activities to assure you we are doing everything possible to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. We have been working behind the scenes for weeks, following the CMS and CDC guidelines to prepare our facility to deal with presumptive or positive cases while protecting our residents and staff.

As a result, we have recently relocated current residents from “A” wing on the skilled nursing third floor, in order to create an isolation wing. Any new admissions – yes, the hospitals are still sending us admissions because they have to  make room for the potential surge – will be assigned to the isolation wing and ideally quarantined in a private room. This is to help ensure that if symptoms develop once the patient comes from the hospital, they are already separated from other residents. Of course, if individuals at RCH test positive for COVID-19 with manageable symptoms, they can also be appropriately monitored in this area. Residents will be sent out to the hospital as deemed necessary by our medical staff to ensure the highest level of care possible.

Please note that specific staff members have been assigned to work in the isolation wing – and we thank them for their dedication and for upholding the highest standards of their profession during this crisis. All staff must wear masks all day throughout the building. Medical-grade masks are for aides, nurses, housekeeping, dietary, and medical personnel. Non-medical staff wear cloth masks at all times, and N95 masks are available at RCH in limited supply and are reserved for dealing with  confirmed cases or highly suspicious cases.

Our Housekeeping and Maintenance departments have been following all CDC guidance and have received special in-servicing regarding cleaning in the age of Covid-19. They too are our unsung heroes in all of this.

Please know we are doing everything within our power to protect our residents and prepare to help those in need. Your prayers at this time are much appreciated.

Saturday, April 4, 2020 7 pm Update -

On Friday, April 3, at 6 pm, we learned that two residents from one specific room in our assisted living residence tested positive for COVID-19. The affected residents are receiving treatment in the hospital and we pray for their safety and healthy return. These residents were quarantined from early in the week, pending the results of testing which included the COVID-19 test. At that time, we immediately put isolation precautions in place so that any staff member entering the room to provide care was fully gowned, masked, gloved, and protected, with those items properly disposed of in hazard bins each time staff left the room. I am grateful to our staff for their full cooperation and professionalism. 

I know many questions have arisen as a result of this news. Please be assured we have been preparing for this inevitable occurrence and are following all CDC, CMS, and DOH guidelines as we navigate this extreme challenge. In accordance with guidance by the Middlesex County Health Department, we are requesting that all assisted living residents remain in their rooms for the next 14 days. Medications and meals will be delivered to the rooms for all residents. Since this disease is known to spread rapidly and conditions can change very quickly, we have requested everyone’s cooperation without exception.

We also wanted you to know about the actions we are taking to protect all residents and help prevent additional cases: 

  • We have instituted increased cleaning and disinfection procedures in accordance with all CDC guidelines.
  • Assisted Living residents will continue to have temps monitored daily and are instructed to advise medical staff if they are not feeling well (respiratory symptoms, sore throat, cough).
  • Residents will be tested for COVID-19 only if symptomatic.
  • Mail will be delivered directly to the Assisted Living rooms within 2 days of receipt so there is no need to visit the mailboxes.
  • Skilled nursing residents and rehab residents have temperatures taken daily on each shift. 
  • Beginning March 28, the use of masks by all staff members was mandated. For now we have an adequate supply of masks, and non-medical personal are wearing cloth masks that have been donated to conserve PPE for nurses and aides.
  • Staff have been and will continue to remain in their designated areas and floors.
  • We have many other preparedness strategies and behind the scenes preparations ongoing or in place. We will provide more details as the need arises. 

I know this is very difficult and we all miss life prior to COVID-19 but please understand that these measures are put in place for the safety and welfare of all the residents and staff. Thank you for your patience, support, faith, and prayers. I know better days lie ahead and we will be rewarded for our vigilance. Kate Shepard, Executive Director 

Friday, March 27, 2020 Update, 5:30 pm - 

As we complete our second week of navigating our “new normal” in the world of coronavirus, we are so thankful to say we have no cases of COVID-19 at Reformed Church Home. The health and wellness of our residents continues to be our top priority, but so too is our focus on compassion, engagement, and empathy for our seniors at this difficult time.

Within the bounds of the restrictions that have been placed upon us, we are committed to finding novel ways to reach out to families. Our Patio Chats this week brought tears to the eyes, not just for the family members standing across the glass windows from their loved ones, but for our staff members who made this successful event possible. That’s because we really are a family, and just as any family comes closer together in a crisis, so too have all of our employees in nursing, activities, social work, therapy, ministry, admissions/marketing, development, reception, maintenance, housekeeping, food service, human resources, accounting, assisted living, and on and on.

It takes a real team to accomplish what we have done these past two weeks. I cannot thank our staff enough for their commitment and boundless energy, and I want to express my appreciation to all the families that have recognized their efforts with kind words, letters, posts, flowers, donations, and more. Please keep praying for us and sending positive thoughts.

On a practical note, please note that effective March 28, 2020, ALL staff will be required to wear masks for the protection of themselves and all the residents.

With gratitude, 

Kate Shepard
Executive Director/Administrator

Tuesday, March 24, 2020, 6:00 pm - We are relieved to report that no coronavirus cases have been diagnosed at Reformed Church Home at this time. We continue to try and keep spirits up, and are happy to announce we are now fostering two pups from Husky House in Matawan. They needed some love and attention in a good Home, and we are happy to provide countless loving residents and staff members to do just that. You too can rescue a shelter animal from Husky House or your local shelter at this challenging time. Animals are known to reduce stress and lower blood pressure, plus lift the spirits. We will continue to update you as to their adjustment and antics! We also have been facilitating family chats through the large windows on the first floor patio so residents could see their loved ones via something other than Skype. But we do continue to offer Skype or FaceTime sessions, so reach out to the Activities Department at extension 192 to arrange.

We are also making good use of our live feed camera broadcast from the MPR to individual resident rooms, with exercise in the mornings and spiritual services in the afternoon. More great activities are being planned so stay tuned for more information.

We'd like to thank you for your patience and support at this time -- we appreciate the many positive thoughts, prayers, wishes, and gratitude so many of our families have expressed. We'll continue to do our best to keep this virus outside our doors and to keep the compassion flowing freely to all of your loved ones. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020, 6:00 pm - We made it through another trying week, and are happy to say that we have not had any COVID-19 cases at Reformed Church Home. We continue to follow all CDC, CMS and DOH guidelines and must restrict visitors until further notice. All staff and essential medical personnel receive daily screenings and temps before their shifts. Non-communal dining continues, and residents and staff are constantly reminded about good handwashing practices.

As the cases mount in Middlesex County, we so appreciate everyone's prayers and good wishes. Our Activities department has been working and thinking round the clock about ways to engage our residents and keep them feeling calm, loved, and comfortable. Although we know they miss all of their family members, we are taking extra efforts to keep everyone connected. We have done several Skype or FaceTime calls, helped residents create love letters to family and photographed them to send via email or post on Facebook, and have "Patio Chat" sessions scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday March 24/25, if all continues to go well. We are able to accept supplies, birthday gifts, etc for residents if families bring them to the front door. Call our main number if you have any questions or concerns. Stay tuned for more updates, and stay safe! #Socialdistancing is the new normal. Sending virtual hugs.

Monday, March 16, 2020, 4:30 pm Update --

We are happy to report that we do not currently have any cases of COVID-19 at the Reformed Church Home. In addition to our visitor restrictions, we continue taking all the preventative measures previously outlined (see daily posts below). The Activities Staff continues to brainstorm to find meaningful programs to keep our residents engaged while practicing social distancing. As soon as possible, we will try to share some of these activities on Facebook so you are aware of your family member's daily events. We encourage you to Skype with your loved one in order for them to feel connected in these uncertain times. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers.  Stay well.

Sunday, March 15, 2020, 1:00 pm Update –

Reformed Church Home does not have any cases of COVID-19 at this time, but COVID-19 has been identified in increasing numbers in many counties throughout New Jersey.  This development triggers heightened infection control practices and protocols as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) .

In accordance with CDC and CMS guidelines, we have stopped all large group activities in the multi-purpose room including religious services.  We have also stopped all communal dining until further notice.  As you already are aware, we have stopped all visitation unless it is an extreme situation.  We successfully delivered trays to all residents today and we only hope to improve our efficiency from here.

All staff, necessary medical personnel and essential vendors continue to be admitted only after appropriate screening that includes taking the temperature and evaluation for signs or symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat.

The news about the spread of COVID-19 is concerning for us all. We understand that communication with your loved one is incredibly important and encourage you to communicate with them using the telephone, video chat, e-mail, or social media. We are also addressing creative ways to deliver activities to our residents in both skilled nursing and assisted living.

We continue to monitor information and guidance from the NJ Department of Health, CMSCDC and are working with state and local public health and emergency preparedness officials to prevent the illness and strengthen our preparation for a possible outbreak.  We will continue to keep you informed.  Keep visiting this website for regular updates.

We appreciate your understanding in these uncertain times.  Please continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

 

Saturday, March 14, 2020, 4:00 pm Update --

While we do not have any cases of Coronavirus at Reformed Church Home, in light of the severity of the outbreak—and that the World Health Organization has characterized it as a pandemic—we must restrict all visitors, including family members, to Reformed Church Home at this time.

In accordance with the Guidelines issued today by The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), we are suspending communal dining and all group activities.  Our activity and dining personnel will be working on creative solutions to these new restrictions.  

We are actively screening all staff for fever, shortness of breath, cough and sore throat.
Again, I want to thank all the families and residents for their continued patience and understanding as we navigate through these uncharted waters.  Our goal is to keep everyone safe and well. Please see additional information below from previous posts.

Please continue to keep us in your daily thoughts and prayers. Kate Shepard, Executive Director

Friday, March 13, 2020, 2:30 pm Update --

Over the past few days, we have been working diligently to review all materials related to the Coronavirus pandemic to make the best possible decisions for the Home. As stated previously, our goal is not to react to fear in the midst of this extreme challenge, but to be proactive in the preventative measures we can take right now to -- first and foremost -- help protect our residents. Please be assured we are taking every measure feasible to keep the residents in our care—whom we consider our family—safe. Following is important information we want to share as of Friday afternoon, March 13, 2020:

  • Effective Friday, March 13, 2020, we are restricting all nonessential visitors, including family members, from entering Reformed Church Home
  • The front door will be locked beginning at 4 pm today onward. Anyone wishing to enter will use the phone in the vestibule to call the front desk #100 (8 am to 8 pm) or the nursing supervisor #157 from 8 pm to 8 am. Hand sanitizing wipes will be placed at the front door.
  • We are asking residents to postpone all nonessential appointments or gatherings outside RCH.
  • We have cancelled all Activities trips out to the community.
  • We have suspended all tours of Skilled Nursing and AL.
  • All staff members will be screened for symptoms upon entering the building, including temperature. Staff are instructed to self-report symptoms and stay home if they are sick or have come in contact with anyone diagnosed with Coronavirus.
  • Essential vendors will be screened as well and must enter through the main front entrance.
  • We are screening all new residents for respiratory illness prior to entering the building.
  • Thursday observation in the Rehab Department for families has been suspended.
  • Care Plan Conferences will all be done via phone.
  • Family Council Support Group has been cancelled for March.
  • If you would like to Skype with your family member, please contact the Activities Department at ext 192 to make arrangements.
  • To limit unnecessary exposure to large groups, we may need to reschedule some planned activities. We strive to put some creative solutions for the activities program in place. Please be patient as we navigate through this.

We have posted safety posters around the building to remind residents of proper preventative measures, including direction to:

  • Cover coughs & sneezes with your sleeve or tissue.
  • Wash your hands often. Use the wall-mounted hand sanitizers throughout the building.
  • Maintain a distance of 6 feet from others whenever possible and avoid touching, hugs, etc.

Thank you so much for your cooperation, and may God bless us and keep us all safe.

Kate Shepard

Executive Director/Administrator

Thursday, March 12, 2020, 3:30 pm Update --

There are no cases of Coronavirus at Reformed Church Home, but we are restricting all visitors effective Friday March 13, 2020.

In light of the severity of the Coronavirus outbreak, we must restrict all non-essential visitors, including family members, from entering the Reformed Church Home effective Friday, March 13, 2020. We know this is difficult news to hear during these challenging times, and it was a difficult decision for us to make. Our goal is not to react to fear in the midst of this complex time, but to be proactive in the preventative measures we can take right now as an organization. We’ve always prided ourselves on operating as a family. We assure you that we are taking every measure feasible to keep the residents in our care—which we consider our family—safe.

According to the World Health Organization, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has now been characterized as a global pandemic. While we do not currently have cases of Coronavirus at Reformed Church Home, much remains unknown about COVID-19’s impact and we know the best time to put policies in place to effectively prevent or slow the spread of the virus is now rather than later.

We are posting signs on our entrances with these updates, and we are actively screening individuals, including staff, who need to come into the building. If you believe a visit to our Home is essential, please contact us at least 24 hours prior to your arrival for consideration by calling 732-607-9230.

We understand that connecting with loved ones is incredibly important, but we must put in place stringent measures that are in the best interest of the at-risk elders we serve, as well as our staff who provide the around-the-clock care necessary to keep our residents safe.  We will continue to review our policies and update them as necessary.

We need your support and cooperation as we focus all efforts on the safety and well-being of our residents, staff and the community at large. Please assist us with notifying other family members and friends about these important measures, and stay tuned to this site for the latest updates. Also, please note:

  • We are asking residents to postpone all non-essential appointments (routine doctor visits, hair appointments, etc.) outside the Home.
  • We have cancelled all activity trips out to the community.
  • We have suspended all tours.
  • Thursday Rehab observation for families has been suspended.
  • Care Plan Conferences will all be done via phone.
  • If you would like to Skype with your family member, please contact the activities department. 732-607-9230 ext 192.

Thank you for your cooperation.

March 11, 2020, 5:10 pm Update --

Following is an update from Kate Shepard, Executive Director, regarding Coronavirus prevention at RCH. 

We are closely monitoring the Coronavirus outbreak in New Jersey. This is an evolving situation and we’re constantly reviewing and updating our processes to align with CDC and NJ Department of Health guidelines. 

Keep checking our website to stay informed of updates, including visitation information and changes. At a time like this and because we care for one of the most at-risk populations, we must implement stringent measure to keep residents, staff—and ultimately the community—as healthy as possible. We need your patience and your cooperation in doing your part to reduce the spread of this disease. Please note: 

  • We do not currently have any cases of Coronavirus.
  • We are asking residents to postpone all non-essential appointments (routine doctor visits, hair appointments, etc.) outside the Home.
  • We will be canceling all activity trips out to the community.
  • At this time we are limiting visitors to adult, immediate family members, to visit in the resident’s room or apartment only.
  • We are suspending all tours of skilled nursing and rehab floors. AL tours are currently allowed. 

Thank you for your cooperation. 

March 10, 2020, 3:50 pm Update -- 

As Reformed Church Home continues to monitor the Coronavirus outbreak, please see the important updates and recommendations below. We need everyone’s support and cooperation to mitigate the risks associated with this disease.

  • We do not currently have any cases of the Coronavirus in our facility.
  • In alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s guidelines concerning higher-risk populations such as the elderly, we encourage that only adults who are immediate family members visit our communities at this time so that we can limit potential exposure of illness within our home.
  • All visitors should limit their movement within the facility to the resident room.  Please reduce the amount of walking in the halls and avoid going to the dining room. 
  • All visitors must sign in at the front desk. Anyone with symptoms of illness should not visit and will be asked to leave.
  • In alignment with guidance issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the CDC, we are increasing our admissions screening procedures to assess symptoms of respiratory infection prior to a resident entering the facility.
  • Out of an abundance of caution, and to allow our staff to continue focusing on increased infection prevention and control measures, we are limiting our residents’ exposure to groups of people. As such, we will be working on a case-by-case and day-by-day basis to reschedule some planned activities within our facility.
  • Our programs and activities are incredibly important components of quality of life for our residents. As we adjust activities schedules, we will work to incorporate creative solutions for residents to have access to activities without increased risk of exposure to illness.

Additional Statement from Kate Shepard, Executive Director, March 10, 2020: “We’re implementing more stringent measures at Reformed Church Home because we are caring for one of the most vulnerable populations at risk for the Coronavirus. We’re making responsible—albeit difficult—decisions including limiting visitation and modifying activities within our home that involve close resident contact.  In the event the number of confirmed positive cases increases, we may find it necessary to limit all visitation to the Home.   We continue to encourage Facetime and Skype as an alternative to face to face visits. Our visitors, programs and activities are incredibly important components of our residents’ daily lives so we’re also exploring creative ways to keep offering meaningful activities while reducing the risk of exposure to illness. Each and every one of us has an important role to play in reducing the spread of the Coronavirus, and we need the community’s support and patience as we respond to this evolving situation. We know that many of the measures we’re putting into place are not ideal but your cooperation will help keep our residents and staff healthy, allowing us to better care for those we serve.”

March 9, 2020 - 5:00 pm -- INFORMATION ON OUR PREPAREDNESS EFFORTS FOR COVID-19

In an effort to address questions and concerns about COVID-19 and its potential impact at Reformed Church Home, this webpage will be updated to provide information to family members, residents, visitors and vendors. This is an evolving situation that we will closely monitor while we make every effort to ensure the safety of those we serve. 

As Reformed Church Home continues to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak, please see the important updates and recommendations below. We need everyone’s support and cooperation to mitigate the risks associated with this disease. 

As always, the health and well-being of our residents is our top priority...

WE ARE CONCERNED AND PROACTIVE: We are concerned about the spread of the novel coronavirus. The people we serve are typically more vulnerable to the virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. We are taking action. 

OUR FOCUS IS ON INFECTION PREVENTION AND CONTROL:

  • We have emergency preparedness and infection prevention and control plans in place. These provide detailed instructions for staff on how we address and manage infectious disease outbreaks.
  •  Our staff is trained in infection control practices and follows established protocols based on that training. We have experience managing illness outbreaks, such as flu, and have a heightened awareness of the possible risk to our residents posed by viral illnesses, such as flu, norovirus, and COVID-19. 
  • We have implemented daily cleaning processes at our community that are part of the emergency plan.

WE ARE INFORMED: Because the coronavirus is spreading quickly, our administration and staff are in daily communication with the public health officials in our region to stay abreast of the latest developments about coronavirus. In addition, we are closely monitoring information from the New Jersey Department of Health as well as from federal agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CMS, and the World Health Organization. 

WE ARE EDUCATING: As we learn more about coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, we are educating staff, residents, and families. Current protocols we’ve implemented include:

  • For staff: teaching them about the symptoms of COVID-19 and monitoring residents for these symptoms; teaching staff about how the virus spreads and recommended containment actions, including staying home from work if they are symptomatic.
  • For everyone: because older adults can be vulnerable to the spread of viral illnesses, including coronavirus, we are asking that everyone who comes in contact with our community members to be particularly vigilant and follow recommended guidance on prevention. Specifically:
  1. Washing hands regularly and sufficiently.   
  2. Cleaning and wiping down frequently touched surfaces.
  3. Limiting contact with others (social distancing).
  4. Staying at home if they are feeling ill.

WE ARE AVAILABLE: A fast-changing, potential crisis situation such as this calls for consistent communication. Our website will continue to be updated as the situation changes and as new information is received. If you have specific questions, please contact Kate Shepard, Executive Director, or Anna Vergara, Director of Nursing, at 732-607-9230. 

 

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