OLA in Joliet has no cases of COVID-19

Here's what this independent, assisted and skilled nursing community is doing to prevent it

Our Lady of Angels Retirement Home in Joliet is “blessed not to have any case of COVID-19,” said its administrator Judy Hoffman.

But OLA does have a dedicated wing ready go, if needed.

In addition, to keep its more than 115 residents – many of whom are 65 and older – physically safe, OLA is caring for their emotional and social needs, too.

“The Our Lady of Angels mission is respecting the dignity of the total person and dedicated to Franciscan values,” Hoffman said. “The community of OLA provides residents with compassion and person-centered care.”

Here’s what OLA has been doing so far.

First of all, the residents don’t leave the building except for medical emergencies, Hoffman said. And no one comes inside except employees.

That means no families, friends, or food or packages from family and friends may come into the building.  The only exception to the “no visitors” rule would be “a patient that is on hospice that might be actively transitioning” from life to death, Hoffman said.

It means outside doctors or nurse practitioners may not come into the building. OLA does have two health professionals on staff. The medical director is Dr. JD Wright and the director of nursing is Mary Ann Piercy.

“We as a team work well together,” Hoffman said.

It means employees do not bring their own meals. But they do get free meals while they are at work, Hoffman said. All food eaten at the building – even birthday cakes – is prepared in-house, she added.

“My dietary manager Sue Iverson has made leaps and bounds to make free things for their lunches and dinners and breakfasts,” Hoffman said. “Employees get meal options, a can of pop or bottle of water. If they want cookies, there’s even sugar-free cookies. She even offers the staff ice cream bars.”

Residents “visit” their own health care professional via telemedicine, Hoffman said. And OLA worked with a laboratory to provide one dedicated phlebotomist whose had no exposure to COVID-19 to come into OLA and only OLA, Hoffman said.

“We’re proud to be able to do this,” Hoffman said. “The lab company worked very diligently with us to assist us in that.”

Any blood glucose or blood pressure monitoring can be done in-house, Hoffman said.

Even supplies that OLA orders for the building are not delivered to the building; they are delivered to the dock area, so they can be “wiped down” before they come into the building, Hoffman said.

Employees must wear masks and eye shields while they are inside the building unless they have a private office and keep that office door closed, Hoffman said.

But when employees leave their private offices, they must put on the mask and guard.

“Of course, frequent and thorough handwashing is encouraged,” Hoffman said.

At the start of each shift, all employees have their temperature taken. If the temperature is 100.4 or greater, the employee is sent home. The same is true if the employee doesn’t feel well, Hoffman said.

However, OLA has not had an employee with a fever yet, Hoffman said.

Staff meetings take place via intercom.

“The day of having meetings next to each other is done for now,” Hoffman said.

Residents eat their meals in their rooms. Group activities in a single large room are canceled. But residents who are able to leave their rooms may do so, Hoffman said.

However, residents must practice social distancing and wear a mask if they leave the room, Residents who have roommates must practice social distancing in the room, she said.

Residents have puzzles and other activities are individual to them to prevent cross-contamination, Hoffman said.

Group activities, such as music, games and crafts — even Bingo — are done in the hallway, with each resident remaining near the door of his or her room, she said.

If a resident must leave OLA for a medical emergency, this is the procedure for returning.

Any resident treated in the emergency room and released the same day must have a negative rapid swab test before the resident can return, Hoffman said.

If the test is negative, the resident will shelter in place in a private room for 14 days, she said. If the resident has a roommate, that resident will still go to a private room for those 14 days.

If a resident’s test is positive – and that has not happened yet, Hoffman stressed – that resident would go straight into the COVID wing.

If a resident was hospitalized, the resident may not return until the resident has two negative PCR tests, which are more accurate than the rapid swab test, Hoffman said.

If both those tests are negative, the resident returns to OLA and shelters in place in a private room for 14 days. If the test is positive, the resident would go to the COVID wing.

The same procedure would occur if OLA accepted a new resident at this time, Hoffman said.

“We’ve been working with the hospitals,” Hoffman said. “They’ve been doing their very best to be accommodating.”

For the Sisters who live in the cottages at OLA – since they are not allowed inside the OLA building – families may pull up in the “lovely area in front of the building” and FaceTime with the Sisters, Hoffman said.

“We’ve had families come through in their cars, beeping their horns on their birthdays,” Hoffman said.

As the weather warms up, OLA will take residents outside to walk the grounds with staff members. They will all wear masks and observe social distancing, Hoffman said.

In the meantime, most of the residents have “lovely window views” that allow them to enjoy OLA’s gardens from the safety of their rooms, Hoffman said.

So in many ways, residents’ lives are not interrupted too much. And families have been wonderfully supportive of OLA’s efforts, Hoffman said.

“They just can’t come and visit,” she said.

Here how other Will County nursing homes compare with OLA.

According to the Illinois Department of Health, these are the numbers of COVID-19 cases among residents and staff, as of April 19:

Arbor Terrace

Outbreak reported cases: 18

Deaths: 0

Charter Senior Living, The Cottages

Outbreak reported cases: 7

Deaths: 1

Lakewood Nursing Home

Outbreak reported cases: 2

Deaths: 0

Meadowbrook Manor

Outbreak reported cases: 23

Deaths: 0

Presence Villa Franciscan

Outbreak reported cases: 40

Deaths: 6

Rock Run Place

Outbreak reported cases: 4

Deaths: 0

Senior Star at Weber Place

Outbreak reported cases: 13

Deaths: 3

St James Manor

Outbreak Reported Cases: 3

Deaths: 1

Sunny Hill Nursing Home

Outbreak reported cases: 2

Deaths: 0

Symphony of Joliet

Outbreak reported cases: 81

Deaths: 26 (according to Symphony Care Networks)

The PARC of Joliet

Outbreak reported cases: 18

Deaths: 4

Willow Falls

Outbreak reported cases: 6

Deaths: 1