“Cohorting” may not be a word you hear very often, but it’s becoming more common during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Across the Good Samaritan Society, cohorting is being used in rehab/skilled care and assisted living to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus on residents and keep them as safe and healthy as possible.
“Cohorting involves putting together a group of residents for a specific reason,” says Aimee Middleton, Good Samaritan Society regional vice president for Nebraska. “In the days of COVID-19, it would be those residents who are COVID-19 positive or those who are showing signs and symptoms.”
Cohorting has been around for decades and was used in some form or another during outbreaks of measles, mumps and influenza.
“In the absence of a cure or vaccine for coronavirus, the Good Samaritan Society is using cohorting and personal protective equipment (PPE),” says Greg Johnson, MD, chief medical officer for the Good Samaritan Society.
Because there is concern about spread of the virus, Dr. Johnson says that the Society has made cohorting one of its infection prevention practices.
In Nebraska, Aimee’s locations have adopted the state’s recommended zone plan to distinguish between residents who have tested positive and those who are awaiting test results.
Residents who have tested positive are moved to the red zone. Residents who are showing signs and symptoms are moved to the yellow zone and monitored closely.
“All the locations have a plan,” says Aimee. “Some are blessed to be able to shut a fire door and call that a cohort.” Other locations are looking at constructing temporary hallway barriers that can designate between red and yellow zones.
Aimee says each location’s leadership has had conversations with residents, families and team members to decide what the most successful cohort area would look like.
They don’t make decisions lightly because a move can be unsettling for residents.
When a resident is moved, the plan is to try and keep them in the same neighborhood or area so they have consistent staff members caring for them. Moves are done as quickly and seamlessly as possible.
“Our entire leadership team has become a quick moving crew,” Aimee says. “It’s been a combination of all staff. Maintenance staff are our heavy lifters, but we need all staff to help step in and participate.”
Keeping residents as safe as possible is at the heart of it all.
“This is a tough time to be in long-term care,” says Good Samaritan Society President Randy Bury. “You see every day in the media the impact this is having on the elderly, in particular.”
He says that he is proud of the fact that when a resident tests positive and surveyors come into the building, the Society has done well with the surveys.
The Society has weeks of preparation under its belt and has many infection prevention practices in place.
Cohorting, personal protective equipment (PPE) and limiting the number of caregivers that go in and out of a resident’s room are practices that are making a difference.
And although it is often unsettling for a resident to need to move to a different area of the building, they know it’s for their own health and the health of those around them.
“Most of our conversations with family members and residents have gone very well,” Aimee says.
But there’s no doubt that residents are ready to get back to their normal routine.
“One question I’ve been asked a lot is, ‘When this is all over, what does that look like? Will we be able to go back to our rooms?’” says Aimee. “I tell them, yes, absolutely.”