Filtered by author: Barbara Hulz Clear Filter

Let’s Work Together

In the recent JAGS article- Montoya A, Jenq G, Mills J, et al. Partnering with Local Hospitals and Public Health to Manage COVID-19 Outbreaks in Nursing Homes (J Am Geriatr 2021; 69(1):30-36), a COVID-19 outbreak investigation in Michigan skilled nursing facilities was the spark for a collaboration of interest to our members. Following the outbreak, testing was performed to determine the in-house prevalence of COVID-19. Residents testing positive for the virus were then divided into cohorts in COVID-19-dedicated units. The article shows the importance of investing in stakeholder relationships and open lines of communication. California health systems should anticipate requests for help from SNFs, and should proactively reach out in response. SNF leaders and staff have experience in providing care for medically complicated elders with functional and cognitive support needs. In turn, SNFs would greatly benefit from help provided by local health systems in terms of infectious disease experts, personal protective equipment (PPE), access to testing, and clear communication protocols during transitions to and from nursing homes. In addition, the importance of integrating nursing home data with other healthcare data is emphasized. Examples of best practices to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on SNF residents, as described in this article, should inspire healthcare stakeholders to create meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships across settings to improve patient care. 

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CALTCM President’s Letter: March 2021

I wanted to start this year with a grateful word of thanks to all of our CALTCM members. Our CALTCM friends and family are leaders in medicine, nursing, administration, pharmacy, social services, ombudsman, and more who believe in quality and safety in post-acute and long-term care.  Your efforts help CALTCM serve as the medical voice of long-term care in California.  Your work through the pandemic has been heroic and the sacrifices have been many.  

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A Vaccine Story on the Power of Community Engagement

January was a record month for the greatest number of COVID Deaths in Sonoma County and 65% of those deaths were in senior congregate living facilities. Meanwhile, a large local continuing care retirement community (CCRC) didn't receive its first vaccinations until January 31.  Only 20 of our 176 assisted living facilities even have a date set. Crista Nelson, our head of Senior Advocacy Services, estimated that at this rate most of our residential care facilities wouldn't be vaccinated until July.  Fortunately, over the last 2 weeks, a huge collaborative effort between CDPH, Public Health, Local Pharmacies, Local hospital systems, and adjacent county providers, the situation has dramatically improved.  By the end this month, most of the residents and healthcare workers who want to be vaccinated will have received at least their first vaccine injection.  In addition, the Kaiser Team and a home care agency have been approved for making house calls on homebound persons and their caregivers.  Prisoners are also receiving vaccines.  This ramping up of the delivery of vaccines wouldn't have been possible without the heroic efforts of our public health department and the trusting relationships that have developed in this community over the course of the pandemic.  At a federal level, improving production and delivery of vaccines to the states has been huge.  We are now in the position of identifying which facilities need more help with staff vaccine hesitancy.  I've attached an excellent presentation on the subject of vaccine hesitancy provided by UCSF's Dr. Bryn Boslett, who was able to comment on the importance of the vaccine in pregnant healthcare workers by her own experience.  In Sonoma County, what once looked bleak, is now an example of what an engaged and coordinated healthcare community can achieve. 

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Gratitude

As a clinician, we are often thanked by our patients and staff. This is such a beautiful and simple way of acknowledging and appreciating others. I have always been surprised with how wonderful I have felt when a little appreciation is shown. Gratitude in our daily lives for others is so important not only for the person receiving, but even more for the person who is saying thanks.  Actions of humility have more benefit to our well being than getting ego-boosts. When we take an active role in our lives to be thankful, it puts us in a higher frequency with the universe. 

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Who will be a “Friend” to the “Unbefriended”?

I appreciate our readers who have pointed out that the term "unbefriended" in this article may be interpreted as a demeaning term, since many of these unrepresented patients are no longer able to access their prior friendship / family network and besides that, the key issue is they no longer have decisional capacity and do not have an identifiable representative.  In this day of implicit bias, I appreciate our readers who hold us to a higher standard for our communications that address problems in the delivery of healthcare in our state.  I also did receive feedback that the California Hospital Association is aware of this problem and is working with CDPH, CALTCM, and other stakeholders to identify acceptable patient advocates.  Several physicians have suggested recruiting local retired physicians through their medical societies.  Another has suggested developing a grant proposal at a county level to develop a patient advocate program.  I hope these ideas take hold, for our facilities really do need help accessing capable patient representatives for this relatively common problem.

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Cootie COVID Catcher Fortune Teller

A cootie-covid-catcher-fortune teller (CCFT) is a homemade tool designed to boost team morale.  When envisioning this device, I wanted to make something that we could all hold physically and share virtually, that encouraged play, that invoked comforting childhood memories, and that referenced the uniquely painful-but-funny moments of our work.  On the top CCFT triangles are the On Lok site names.  Like the cootie-catcher-fortune teller of our youth, one rotates the triangles to reveal a new set of choices, each related to an aspect of PACE care.  Pick a choice, flip it open, and get a funny fortune or anecdote.  Land on “incontinence supplies”? Watch out for “Out of pull-ups, CODE BROWN.”  “Telehealth” predicts that “Grandson zoom-bombs.”

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Building Vaccine Confidence

When COVID-19 exploded last March, my community went to work attempting to keep COVID out of our facilities.  We developed county-wide virtual learning collaboratives for Assisted Living (AL) communities and for SNFs, which met on a weekly basis.  By the end of June, we had done well with no outbreaks and only 4 deaths in the county.  Unfortunately, last summer’s surge in COVID prevalence shattered the myth that we had done enough to contain it.  Like the rest of our state, we pivoted to follow guidance focused more on infection control and early recognition of outbreaks.  By the end of October, we seemed to be back in the driver’s seat with much better facility COVID metrics.  However, with the winter surge, we are stretched thin on staff, resources, and again wondering when the bad news will end.  In my county, we have now have had 196 deaths, and 70% of them have occurred in senior congregate living facilities.  

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Using Monoclonal Antibodies in LTC

The FDA has given EUA (Emergency Use Authorization) for bamlanivimab (Lilly) or the “cocktail” of casirivimab and imdevimab IV infusions for mild to moderate COVID-19 patients.  These monoclonal antibodies block the binding of the spike protein to the ACE2 receptor on the human cell, which blocks viral attachment.  If given early (within 10 days of symptom onset), both medicines have been shown in high-risk adults to reduce the viral load and risk of progression to severe COVID-19, and reduce the necessity for ED visits and hospitalization.  However, they didn’t help those already hospitalized and outcomes were worse in those receiving high-flow oxygen or mechanical ventilation.  Experts suspect that infusions given within the first 3 days of symptoms will be more effective than when given later.  This is similar to what we have experienced with the use of oseltamivir (Tamiflu) in Influenza or antivirals with shingles.  

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COVID-19 Vaccines are Arriving!

Since the SARS CoV-2 virus arrived in the USA last winter, our lives have been disrupted in many ways.  We are currently in a Winter Surge that has locked down most of the state.  The latest statistics on COVID activity show a doubling or tripling of cases in most of California in the month of December, which greatly increases the risk of outbreaks in our post-acute and long-term care settings.  As of 12/10, the USA had 15.6 million confirmed cases and 294,000 deaths.  Though only 6% of the cases have been in post-acute and long-term care (PALTC), including skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and assisted living communities (AL), our residents have had a hugely disproportionate 34% of the deaths.  As of Friday, December 11, over 100,000 persons with COVID in the USA were hospitalized and 21,000 were in ICU beds. In California, we had 33.500 new cases reported over the preceding day.  

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Local Interventions to Address Workforce Shortage

Prior to the pandemic, most of the SNFs in Sonoma County had applied for waivers, because they weren’t able to staff CNAs at the required 2.4 FTE state standard.  I heard one administrator comment that the website “Indeed.com” had become a main source for attracting CNAs from other SNFs.  In our area, we do have a training program for CNAs through partnerships of facilities with the Red Cross and the local community college, but the number of CNAs attracted to this track has been small.  Since the COVID pandemic, our CNA shortage has been aggravated by concern for personal safety, complicated sick leave policies, inconsistent work hours, and the realization that those working in multiple facilities had a much higher risk of transmitting COVID.  

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To Mask or Not to Mask: A Matter of Opinion

On October 19, 2020, an article in the Wall Street Journal was written observing that some governors in States with surges of COVID are still insisting that masking in public settings should be a personal decision.  This conflicts with the public health guidance of CDC, CDPH, and our Governor, but is still an issue in the public domain in our state where it’s common to observe people in public without a face mask, or wearing the mask under the nose or mouth.  This may not only increase the risk of our health care providers (HCP) acquiring COVID, but data are emerging to suggest that those who acquire COVID while not wearing a mask have a greater dose exposure to COVID, and are likely to become sicker.  

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Utilizing Artificial Intelligence for Falls Management in PA/LTC: Now recruiting for study sites!

Each year, more than one in four older adults aged 65 and older will fall. Among older Americans, falls are the number one cause of injuries and death from injury (1). This represents 29 million falls, 3 million emergency department (ED) visits, 800,000 hospitalizations, and 28,000 deaths. As the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults, falls will continue to soar, as America’s baby boomers grow older (2).

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Call for Non-Inferiority Test of Abbott Labs’ POC (Point of Care) Ag BinaxNOW

As a retired internist and gerontologist, I have closely followed our government’s efforts to help us identify HCP (Health Care Personnel) with SARS-CoV-2 with the goal of reducing the risk of its transmission to residents in our homes.   Early on, we had significant difficulties obtaining the materials for molecular (RT-PCR) testing and later had difficulties obtaining the results within the desired 48-hour TAT (Turn Around Time).  However, in the past several months many facilities in our state have been able to obtain at least this TAT on their mandatory weekly screening of their HCP.

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AB890: Forthcoming Changes to NP Practice

Ron Billano Ordona, DNP, FNP-BC
President, Northern California Chapter 
Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association
(NCCGAPNA)
 

AB890: Forthcoming Changes to NP Practice 

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Nurse Practitioners in Independent Practice: A Welcome Change

When I was an intern, I probably learned more about medicine from nurses than anyone else.  When I was a geriatric fellow, I know I learned from the nurse practitioners in our program.  Over the last thirty years I’ve worked, hired, and supervised a multitude of nurse practitioners.  Let me start by saying that when it comes to taking care of vulnerable older adults, I’d trust many of the nurse practitioners that I’ve worked with more than many doctors.  I know that’s a pretty strong statement, and it definitely deserves some additional explanation and qualifications.

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Does Deprescribing Improve Function in Older Persons?

Deprescribing involves a systematic review of medications and identifying those medications with a high potential risk of harm and low benefit to the individual patient when incorporating the goals of care, safety, life expectancy, values, patient preferences, and level of functioning into the decision-making for discontinuing medications.1   According to Scott, et.al., an alternative definition of deprescribing includes: “Deprescribing is not about denying effective treatment to eligible patients. It is a positive, patient-centered intervention with inherent uncertainties, and requires shared decision-making, informed patient consent and close monitoring of effects.” 

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Advance Care Planning & Palliative Care Important During Pandemic: CDPH

On September 22, 2020, the California Department of Public Health posted this all-facilities letter (AFL 20-73), available at https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CHCQ/LCP/Pages/AFL-20-78.aspx.  This letter provides guidance to nursing homes about the importance of person-centered advance care planning, including ensuring that current treatment preferences in light of COVID-19 are reflected in up-to-date treatment orders.  

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Influenza Immunization During the COVID Pandemic

This year, we must improve our vaccination program and IPC (Infection Prevention and Control) for influenza prevention.  In recognition of this necessity, CALTCM provided a free webinar on this subject on September 21, the slide handout and recording are available on CALTCM's COVID-19 Webinar Series webpage.  In that webinar, Dr. Lily Horng, CDPH Public Health Medical Officer, noted that the CDC recommends that persons with COVID should not receive the influenza vaccination until they are out of quarantine (10 days from diagnosis and 24 hrs afebrile), so as to reduce the transmission risk to HCP and other residents.  This statement can be found in the August 21 CDC Influenza Vaccination Guidance for Professionals.  If available, our seniors should receive the enhanced vaccines, which have been shown to be more effective and durable.  Immunization should start now so that our seniors and HCP are immunized prior to onset of influenza.  You should know that San Francisco has already had cases of influenza A.  The above CDC web site has a link to current influenza activity.  My county is considering an order for mandatory vaccination of all HCP unless there is an identified contraindication.  We now know that the masking rules at work do not prevent employees who have refused a flu shot from acquiring COVID outside of the facility and then spreading it within our facilities.  On a recent AMDA podcast, Dr. Barbara Resnick shared great ways to encourage your residents, families and HCP to receive flu shots.  She and AMDA were parts of work groups which created four helpful one-page fact sheets that will enhance your flu immunization program.  Please go to this free AMDA ON-THE-GO podcast where you can hear this superb educator and also download these helpful fact sheets.  

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Are California Nursing Homes “Death Traps”?

In Sonoma County since the surge of COVID-19 cases in late June, our senior congregate living homes have consistently had about 82% of the fatalities in our county.  This fact is consistently reported in our media on a weekly basis.  Early on in this outbreak, the term “die offs” was commonly used in facilities in recognition of how quickly some of our residents died after onset of COVID.  As in many other areas in our country, the initial bad outcomes were associated with the lack of PPE and timely testing, as well as staff shortages, and the need to learn and practice optimal IPC (Infection Prevention and Control).   However, with the in-facility assistance of specialists from CDPH HAI (Health Associated Infection) program, HSAG QIO (Health Services Advisory Group), and our public health department, most of our facilities have extinguished their initial outbreaks and have minimized the impact of new cases.  

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Important CDPH AFL of Sept 12 that Updates COVID Testing/Response Guidelines

The 9 page (AFL-20-53 ) update should be studied by management in the SNF and hospital setting since it sets expectations for testing during care transitions, dialysis care, and outbreaks.  In addition, it creates a new expectation that all HCP will be tested weekly, even when in surveillance mode.  The guidance allows for routine use of Antigen testing rather than exclusive use of RT-PCR testing.  This should allow facilities to have immediate test results.  The tracking and reporting requirements for testing results in symptomatic and asymptomatic persons are also addressed.  

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