Keeping Kaua‘i kupuna safe

  • Bronson Ho / Special to The Garden Island

    From left, Yolando Yamaguchi, Janet Agni, Peggy Yin (Easter Bunny) and Jarrett Harris prepare to pass out Easter treats to residents and staff at Garden Island Healthcare & Rehabilitation. Baskets were donated by Wilcox Medical Center.

  • Contributed by Bronson Ho

    From left, Dave Dikilato, Patricia Wong, Ramon Alegado, Dara Campos, Warren Tamashiro, Roderick Tangonan and Leto Illoreta show off produce donated to Garden Isle Healthcare & Rehabilitation by Grove Farm.

LIHU‘E — Keeping kupuna safe during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a moving target for care-center managers, as staff members adjust to the strict sanitation and screening guidelines from Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, state Department of Health and directives from the County of Kaua‘i.

For instance, at the Kaua‘i facilities under the purview of the ‘Ohana Pacific Management Company — including Garden Isle Healthcare &Rehabilitation center, Hale Kupuna Heritage Home, Kaua‘i Adult Day Health Center and Stay-at-Home Healthcare Services — all employees do daily screenings before the start of their shifts and COVID-19 testing of patients and clients before admission for their services. All patients and clients are screened daily.

Multiple times daily, staff members sanitize and disinfect high-touch services and patient-care areas. It’s a lot of extra work, according to Kurt Akamine, vice president of OPMC, and ongoing trainings keep everyone up to date on the newest COVID-19 directives. But staff members still show up daily to safeguard kupuna, potentially putting themselves at risk.

“Many may not witness what they do and what it takes to care for our kupuna,” Akamine said. “The sacrifices and inconveniences that they are willingly making every day, both on and off the job. And for this we are truly grateful for who they are and all that they do.”

He continued: “While most are told to stay home, stay safe, practice social distance, our staff courageously comes to work every day to protect and battle for the safety of the most vulnerable population. They are the warriors who fight to keep our kupuna safe and protected.”

And while they’re working to keep kupuna protected, staff at care centers and nursing homes are also dedicated to keeping their residents and patients connected with their families and friends.

“Our kupuna at Hale Kupuna Heritage Home and Garden Isle Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center stay connected to their family and friends via video-conferencing, phone calls, and even the traditional letter-writing. We also have a designated area where the kupuna can visit with their families through a protected glass barrier,” said Akamine.

Over at Regency at Puakea assisted-living center in Puhi, community-relations director Brenda Sherman said its pandemic response been an “all-hands-on-deck” situation.

All staff members were put to use, and it took everyone to cover the extra duties, like meal delivery, personal shopping, TelMed assistance, creative social-distancing activities, exercises, meals on scheduled intervals and frequent cleaning.

“I would like to highlight the individual who has kept Puakea safe and healthy through it all. She’s the one who steers our ship, our Executive Director Pam Arroyo,” said Sherman.

“When the warning came down, Pam stayed on top of updates daily and transmitted them at every morning meeting. You’ve heard that saying, ‘it takes a village to raise a child?’ Well, it takes a community of people to interact to experience growth in a safe and healthy environment. That’s what her leadership delivered,” said Sherman.

Regency at Puakea requires patients and staff to fill out questionnaires and complete temperature checks before each shift or visit, everyone in the building is required to wear face masks, frequent hand-washing and disinfecting takes place, and all other official health directives are being followed.

Staff members are also working to connect kupuna with family and friends on a regular basis.

“We are always happy to assist with setting up FaceTime, Google Hangouts, or Zoom for them, and it seems to be working well,” said Sherman.

“However, we all know it doesn’t suffice the traditional hugs and kisses. Visiting is still restricted, but (we are) hopeful that it will be moving to the next level. In the meantime, family members are welcome to do drop-offs or pickups during business hours.”

As of June 1, Hawai‘i has no reports of COVID-19 deaths in long-term-care facilities. To prevent future COVID-19 outbreaks, AARP Hawai‘i urged the state Department of Health to create guidelines for care homes, assisted living, adult foster care homes and nursing homes to protect Hawaii’s kupuna.

“Kupuna in long-term-care facilities are the most vulnerable to COVID-19. One out of three deaths nationwide are connected to long-term-care facilities,” said Keali‘i Lopez, AARP state director.

”Hawai‘i, as far as we know, has been fortunate in that we have been able to flatten the curve and prevent deaths among vulnerable kupuna in long-term-care facilities. We need to keep it that way,” said Lopez.

The organization is encouraging the state to step up efforts to distribute personal protective equipment to health-care facilities and ensure inspectors conducting routine inspections of all facilities follow strict infection-control guidelines when they visit.

AARP is also emphasizing the need for clear, consistent safety guidelines, efforts to connect kupuna with family members through virtual conversations, and expand testing.

Gov. David Ige said nursing homes are a high priority in Hawai‘i, and officials are taking action to protect kupuna.

“We will continue strict requirements to protect our kupuna: no visitors allowed, and all staff and contractors screened before entry,” said Ige. “We are providing personal protective equipment to each nursing home every week, and are developing plans to test all residents and staff in nursing homes.”

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Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.

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