Retirement homes take extra precautions for severe flu season

TYLER - Flu season has come, and Tyler and East Texas are some of the hardest-hit parts of the state. While most people drink liquids and get plenty of rest, or ask their doctors for professional advice, some parts of the community have to take extra precautions -- homes for senior citizens.

"It's so important for those with compromised immune systems" said Deidra Halko, executive director at Garden Estates of Tyler.

She emphasized that the risk of catching the flu can increase, and its effects worsen, as one gets older, leading many retirement communities and nursing homes to take proactive steps to prevent those in their care from getting the flu before it becomes a problem.

Lisa Lewis, senior executive director at Atria Senior Living at Willow Park, said their facilities are following the maximum recommendations from the health department, and have entered a quarantine status until 72 hours after the last case in the local hospitals.

No visitors will be allowed except for essential health care professionals, who will be required to wear gloves and masks at all times.

Residents may leave with their families, but they are asked to return only after normal operations resume. Activities are canceled and the cafeteria is closed, so all meals and snacks are being brought to individual rooms.

"We'd rather have this short inconvenience versus 100 80-year-old residents with the flu," Ms. Lewis said. "And everyone's pretty cheerful about it."

Other facilities are taking a less extreme approach. Ms. Halko said Garden Estates has enacted a midlevel protocol, putting signs on the doors asking visitors to wait until another time if they are showing any signs of the flu.

Employees showing symptoms are being given paid sick leave until they are 100 percent, and the housekeeping staff are taking extra precautions to clean and bleach all common areas.

"We haven't had any cases yet ... but the health of our residents is so important," she said. "And our residents have been very open to it."

With experts expecting a particularly long, severe flu season, it is unknown how long such measures might remain in effect, whether they will need to be made more strict, or whether they will be eased down in the coming weeks.

For any further questions about protocols and precautions at the facility where a loved one lives, contact it to ask about specific steps.

© 2018 KYTX-TV


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