Group care homes changing protocol to protect residents

Published: Apr. 8, 2020 at 1:04 PM AKDT
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Alaska has a number of houses that serve as group homes for people with developmental disabilities. Because of those disabilities, many of them are immunocompromised, making them among the most at-risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. A number of different organizations runs these group homes, but across the state, caregivers are stepping up to keep their residents safe.

“That is our role, to protect them,” said Renee Alford, Community Living Supervisor for Cindy and Vic’s R&R, an Anchorage-based group that runs several group homes.

Alford said Cindy and Vic’s has established new protocol for when caregivers come in or out of the house. The switch happens twice a week, when the weekday caregiver trades places with the weekend caregiver.

“When they come in, they sanitize, they sanitize at the door, then they go upstairs, wash their hands, and then talk about their day,” Alford said.

Even before they get to the door, caregivers take their temperature and fill out a questionnaire about any recent travel. Residents, though, are less mobile. Other than walks and car rides, the residents need to stay inside.

One of Cindy and Vic’s group homes, the Harmony House, has three residents. They said that with their work and classes canceled, there’s a lot they miss about going out, but they’ve also found some ways to stay entertained.

“Art projects!” They said in unison when I asked them what they were doing inside.

Arts and crafts have been a good way for them to hang out as a group, but modern technology is keeping them connected to the outside too. Two of the residents have been taking remote hip hop dance lessons using video calls, and have had dance parties with some of the other Anchorage group homes.

Of course, roommates need some alone time as well, but at least for this house, they said their situation has brought them closer together.

“We’re kind of like our own little family,” said Carly Neumuth, the Caregiver for the Harmony House. ”And we have to figure out how to coexist in these walls for as long as we have to and make the best of it.”

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