The new director of Haines Home for the Aged says she is working to protect her residents from the current COVID outbreak. And as KHNS’ Corinne Smith reports, the administrator says it’s about juggling safety, community and the well-being of elderly residents as they enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic. 19.
Christy Long is the new administrator of Haines Assisted Living, but she’s not new in town.
“I’ve been doing this kind of work forever. I have both my bachelor’s and my master’s in social work, my master’s is in management and administration,” she said. “And I was actually in graduate school in Seattle when I came to Haines to visit my college roommate, and I fell in love with the place and finished graduate school, and then I moved to Haines.”
She spent the better part of a decade in Haines in the 1990s working various administrative jobs – she said she held 13 jobs in Haines over 10 years – but eventually moved to Juneau in 2000.
“I didn’t want to leave (Haines) in the first place. And the economy kind of drove that engine,” she said. “So we moved south, ended up in Juneau, with our intention of coming back to Haines. And as I went on, I raised my son in Juneau, and he just left for college in August. And then in October, I got a text from a friend that said the current HAL admin was retiring in January, and I better get on with it. So I did.
During this time in Juneau, Long held various regional and state care coordinator positions, most recently last year at the Juneau Pioneer Home. It is a state-run assisted living facility that accommodates approximately 50 residents.
Long stepped into the role of administrator of the Haines seniors’ residence this month, as the community experiences a surge in COVID cases. The state is reporting 43 new cases of COVID in the borough of Haines over the past week, from Jan. 14 to Jan. 21.
“Right now we’re in what I call our yellow zone,” Long said. “And that’s when it’s like 2% to 5% of the population. So for Haines, it would be 50 to 125 people. And that’s where I guess we are now, you know, we can take the current numbers, and in my head, I just double them. Because there are many things that are not reported. So, just to be sure, I double that number, and we’re still in the low to moderate range.
There are currently only four residents at the 10-bedroom facility. And visitors are currently welcome at HAL, which Long says is crucial to the well-being of its residents.
AAll healthcare facilities that take Medicare and Medicaid must permit indoor visitation with residents, in accordance with federal law.
Visitors are all screened at the door, with temperature and symptom checks, and must wear a mask. If needed, they can take a rapid COVID test as an extra precaution.
“So we have systems in place,” she said. “And it’s been really nice. So there were visitors. And, yes, it is the isolation of our elders. It’s just awful.
Long says their 13 staff members are taking safety precautions and are now able to provide rapid COVID tests as needed.
“They take their temperature every day, they sign the standard COVID questionnaire,” she said. “And they are really good. I mean, if someone’s just sniffling, they either stay home or ask me if they can come over for the test. I have had staff members who had a sibling or parent who was not feeling well. And I’m going to test them a few days in a row to make sure. So we have systems in place.
She says they partner with the SEARHC clinic to provide medical care, the Haines Senior Center for meal delivery or transportation, and bring in services like a hairdresser when needed.
Long says staff are not required to be vaccinated at this time, but that will likely change in the future with federal requirements.
For now, she says she is working to create more activities and social time for residents, with COVID precautions in place, and they welcome visitors and community volunteers.