Category Archives: Community Health

DHEC Recognizes National Parents’ Day at Long-Term Care Facilities

DHEC Recognizes National Parents’ Day at Long-Term Care Facilities

Sunday, July 26, 2020, is National Parents’ Day and DHEC celebrates the wonderful relationships of families who have elderly parents residing in licensed long-term care facilities throughout South Carolina, including our 194 nursing homes and 497 assisted living facilities. This observance is a poignant tribute to the parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents residing at these facilities who are heavily affected by the pandemic. These residents are at high risk for contracting COVID-19 and therefore visitation restrictions are still in full effect for nursing homes and assisted living facilities, with the exception of end-of-life situations. These necessary infection control measures have hindered physical social visits from family members in a time where human connection matters more than ever.

A resident at Bishop Gadsden Health Care Center in Charleston, SC using a tablet to teleconference with her daughter and grandchildren.

“Nat Turner said it best when he said that good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity,” states JoMonica Taylor, Interim Section Manager for Residential Facilities Oversight in Healthcare Quality. “This is why DHEC works with facilities and the families of residents in making sure that we can all create innovative ways to let communication happen, like window visits and utilizing technology. As we navigate through our new norm, it is vital for all of the elderly parents in facilities to keep in contact with families in any way possible, especially since many of them might not fully be cognizant of the pandemic or why their families aren’t coming over anymore. Nothing can replace physical touch or presence, but picking up the phone or scheduling a closed window visit shows them that they have not been forgotten and that their families love them.  It gives them a ray of hope that better days are on the horizon.”

A resident at Brightwater Assisted Living in Myrtle Beach, SC having a closed window visit with her daughter, son-in-law, grandchild, and great-grandchild.

Having an elderly parent reside at a facility can be a daunting decision for any family to consider making, especially when responding to a public health threat of this magnitude. Arnold Alier, EMS Division Director in Healthcare Quality, knows this personally. “My father, up until last year, had lived in multiple nursing homes and assisted living facilities for about ten years,” said Arnold. “The experience has given me the opportunity to help other families going through the same process with a loved one, even now facing COVID-19 lockdowns and safety measures.”

Alier goes on to express how, “After taking care of Papi at home for three years, it reached the point where he needed around the clock oversight that I could not provide. It was an extremely difficult decision and there are no manuals or courses that can prepare you, so I empathize and know all too well how terrifying the decision is; how terrifying the unknown is when your sick parent is involved.” Luis Alfredo Alier, Sr., father of Arnold Alier, sadly passed away last year after a long battle with Lewy Body Dementia. Alier recalls several occasions where the long-term care facilities where his father was residing in would be on lockdown for several weeks at a time, either due to hurricanes or being at the height of flu season; lockdowns with physical restrictions similar to what many families are now facing with the ongoing state of emergency due to COVID-19.

Luis Alfredo Alier, Sr. and his son, Arnold Alier, at the Easley Retirement Center in Easley, SC.

Alier not only faced the challenge of not being able to physically visit his father when a facility was on lockdown, but he also could not make a phone call due to his father’s severe hearing problems. Video teleconferencing became Luis Alfredo, Sr.’s lifeline to his son. Arnold gives thanks and is indebted to the amazing nursing home and assisted living facility staff members throughout the years who worked with him in ensuring that he could always find some creative way to communicate with his father, working around his father’s disabilities instead of disregarding them. Seeing the face of a loved one, even if it’s simply through a tablet or computer screen, can be the different between loneliness and hopefulness. Alier had to watch his elderly parent go through a terrible battle with a relentless disease, and yet he knew that the love he carried for his father would always be evident no matter what medium he reached out to him through.

Amazing connections are formed between all families that have parents residing at these facilities. “I formed close ties with the relatives of other residents and Papi’s caregivers at these facilities,” states Alier. “We would even check in on each other’s parents as much as we could. The power of communication is incredible. In many ways, we all became a larger family. I saw how the staff would bring Papi a coffee and a banana, his favorite snack, whenever he was feeling down. How a Spanish-speaking staff member would always go out of there way to have genuine discussions with him in his native language. I remember all of it. Connections with elderly parents can happen and be maintained no matter what crazy circumstances are occurring. I’m so grateful that these facilities know that patient care goes beyond meeting a resident’s basic medical needs.”

A resident at Greer Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Greer, SC celebrates his 77th birthday with family members and his favorite frappuccino.

Facilities and families are coming together these days to not only create new ways that they can spend quality time with parents in the age of COVID, but also develop non-physical social gathering events that will further enrich their parents’ lives. South Atlantic Health Care’s Capstone Nursing Home in Easley, SC has integrated virtual games and stimulating group activities through the use of tablets in their social event calendar in order to ensure that residents can still chat and play with one another without having to constantly be in the same room.

The Place at Pepper Hill in Aiken, SC is an example of a nursing home that only has one closed window available for visits. Its staff have not only worked tirelessly to schedule appointments, but they have also designated it the “Family Connection Window” and have decorated it accordingly.  NHC Healthcare in Greenwood, SC gives family members the option to visit closed windows at their elderly parents’ room and use the front entrance of the nursing home, which contains a row of glass doors and windows, to conduct large closed window visits, as well. The nursing home even encourages residents to write loving messages to their loved ones on the outside glass of the entrance, as visible in the picture below. Little moments of joy and little flares of loveliness add up. The benefits that these visits are having is invaluable.

Residents at The Place at Pepper Hill in Aiken, SC speak to their children through the “Family Connection Window.”

The front entrance of NHC Healthcare in Greenwood, SC allows a resident to receive a large closed window visit from his children and grandchildren.

Shirley Klee, Activity Director at Brightwater Assisted Living in Myrtle Beach, SC, is overwhelmed with gratitude for the creative problem solving of her staff. “I am blessed to have a team of Life Enrichment Leaders that have really moved the needle keeping our residents and their loved ones connected,” states Shirley. “We have used Skype, Facetime, and closed window visits. We use them every day! We have been moved to tears many times watching these families connect and seeing their emotion. These are certainly difficult times, but we are grateful for technology. I just could not imagine such a time as this without the means to keep families together.”

A resident at Brightwater Assisted Living in Myrtle Beach, SC is visited by her daughter and sister.

Sarah Tipton, President and CEO of Bishop Gadsden Health Care Center in Charleston, SC, states that, “While residents and families may not be able to be physically together, it has been wonderful to be able to facilitate virtual connections. These visits have been so special, even emotional, for not only the family and residents, but for our team members as well. We very much feel like we are a part of the families’ lives and empathize with them in these challenging times.”

A resident at Bishop Gadsden Health Care Center in Charleston, SC video chats with her newborn great-grandchild that she has yet to meet.

We celebrate Parents’ Day by acknowledging how our own parents have impacted our lives and how vital communication is to a healthy life. DHEC continues to communicate with these nursing homes and assisted living facilities to ensure that infection control and prevention practices are being implemented correctly, but also that the quality of life for residents remains an ongoing discussion of significant importance.

While visitation remains restricted, DHEC is allowing nursing homes and assisted living facilities to choose to offer Closed Window Visits to residents and their loved ones. DHEC’s Closed Window Visit FAQs for Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities has more information for facilities, residents, and visitors to learn more about this opportunity.

DHEC also supports the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) COVID-19 Communicative Technology grant opportunity that provides federal funding so nursing homes can purchase virtual communication devices for their residents. More information regarding the COVID-19 grant opportunity for nursing homes is available here.

Families can find more information in DHEC’s FAQs for Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities and by visiting both of our COVID-19 Nursing Homes and Healthcare Facilities pages for current guidance, memos, and relevant publications.

A resident at NHC Healthcare in Greenwood, SC holds a picture frame showing her graduation photo from nursing school while receiving a closed window visit from her granddaughter, dressed in her cap and gown, on her very own graduation day.

Parents’ Day is a wonderful opportunity to schedule a closed window visit, teleconference, or phone call with a parent residing at a long-term care facility.

We celebrate the families determined to work with both loved ones and facilities in order to come up with creative solutions that keep parents connected with their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. We celebrate the facility staff that create ingenious forms of communication and engagement to keep families connected, and who recognize that treatment of care goes beyond the physical. We celebrate the strength and perseverance of the love between a parent and child, and how love can lead to invention.

DHEC Recognizes National Nursing Assistants’ Week

In observance of the 43rd National Nursing Assistants’ Week 2020, DHEC would like to recognize and thank all of South Carolina’s nursing assistants for their hard work and dedication, especially during COVID-19. During the week of June 18-24, we celebrate nursing assistants and all they do for the community. The compassionate care nursing assistants demonstrate is essential to the well-being of our loved ones in nursing homes, hospitals, and other settings.

What Are Nursing Assistants?

Nursing assistants, or certified nurse aide (CNAs), ) are crucial for the successful operations of nursing homes and other long-term care settings; they provide nearly 80-90% of the direct patient care. Nursing assistants also work in hospitals, as well as in correctional institutions, hospice programs, and home care. Working under a licensed nurse’s supervision, a nursing assistant will provide basic care to patients or residents, often involving extensive daily contact. In order to become certified as a nursing assistant or nurse aide, one must successfully complete a state-approved training program and examination, , and be added to the state registry, which in South Carolina is maintained through the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Duties of a nursing assistant:

  • Taking vital signs of patients
  • Listening to patients’ health concerns, record information, report information to nurses
  • Helping the patients dress
  • Bathing and cleaning patients
  • Serving meals to patients and helping them eat

It would come as no surprise that the extent of contact nursing assistants have with patients result in friendships; there is no limit to their commitment to the happiness and well-being of their patients.   

COVID-19

“During National Nursing Assistants’ Week, we should be mindful that what has historically been a difficult job, has become a true exercise in selflessness,” said Matt McCollum, Administrator for Ridgeway Manor Healthcare Center. “As we navigate through the changes that COVID-19 has brought upon our industry, our CNAs have been put in a position that they’ve not been tasked with before.”

During COVID-19, nursing assistants have shown great flexibility to the changes needed to keep patients and residents safe. Not only have South Carolina’s nursing assistants adapted well and continued to perform at high standards, but they have also taken on new challenges as routines and activities have come to a halt. Nursing assistants have creatively managed to keep residents active and in touch with loved ones and friends, while still following safe distancing measures and precautions.

 “These ladies and gentlemen have always done what is often a thankless job with compassion and care in their hearts, but now they are literally putting themselves in a position of potential jeopardy to provide that care to the most vulnerable Americans among us,” states McCollum. “They are truly the unsung heroes of this pandemic and no amount of thanks will ever be enough to express how blessed we all are to have them as our allies during these trying times.”

Join DHEC in thanking a CNA during the week of June 18-24. To all of South Carolina’s nursing assistants, we thank you and appreciate everything you have done for our loved ones. You are truly heroes!

DHEC Observes World TB Day, Recognizes Efforts of Those Who Work to End the Disease in SC

This World TB Day, DHEC joins local, state, national and global efforts to control and eliminate tuberculosis, as well as to celebrate the work people all over the world have done to address tuberculosis.

World TB Day is officially observed on March 24 of each year to commemorate the date in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch announced his discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes TB.

Tuberculosis is a disease of the lungs that can be spread by coughing, sneezing or speaking. Signs and symptoms of TB disease include feelings of sickness or weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats. The signs and symptoms of TB disease of the lungs also include coughing, chest pain and the coughing up of blood. The signs and symptoms of TB disease in other parts of the body depend on the area affected.

The 2020 World TB Day theme is ”It’s Time”. DHEC will take the time to recognize the amazing work of those in our TB division across the state. Our statewide theme is ”It’s time for us to speak out, step in, and stand up to end TB.”

In observance of the day, DHEC will celebrate with all TB staff on Friday, March 20. The two-hour celebration will include lectures by our state TB Clinician, Dr. Frank Ervin and Lowcountry’s TB Clinician, Dr. Susan Dorman. Awards will be given out in various categories, and staff will be recognized for their great achievements of continued reduction in our state case rate.

Visit the DHEC website for more information on our World TB Day activities.

DHEC and S.C. Hospital Association Collaborate to Address Stroke Prevention and Awareness

stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When this happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the Palmetto State. In addition, our state recently had the sixth highest stroke death rate in the nation.

With the vision of healthy people living in healthy communities, DHEC is working with partners, such as the S.C. Hospital Association (SCHA), to address this health concern.

“My office and the S.C. Hospital Association Hospital Association work closely together to provide information to the public about access to care for stroke, rehabilitation services for stroke, health improvement programs, and access to care for rural areas within the state,” said John Thivierge, DHEC Program Coordinator for Stroke. “My office and the S.C. Hospital Association have a shared goal; that is to save lives and lessen the disabilities related to stroke.”

Beth Morgan, a Registered Nurse and Quality Improvement Project Manager with the association, agreed.

“It’s about saving lives,” she said. “Every 40 seconds in the United States someone has a stroke.”

By ensuring rural areas of the state have access to health improvement programs and care designed to address stroke, DHEC’s partnership with SCHA exemplifies the agency’s core value of Promoting Teamwork and strategy of Service and Accessibility.

“The work that SCHA and DHEC do together is vitally important,” Morgan said.

Learn more about preventing, signs of, and what to do if you are having a stroke.

Help Camp Burnt Gin Win “Best of Sumter” Title

Camp Burnt Gin, DHEC’s residential camp for young people with physical disabilities and chronic illnesses, has been nominated for the Best of Sumter awards. Voting for this recognition event sponsored by The Sumter Item is open until February 29, 2020.

Located in Wedgefield, SC, Camp Burnt Gin is a service of DHEC’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau/Division of Children with Special Health Care Needs and has operated since 1945. Staff members, in a ratio of one for every two campers, reside with the campers and assist them throughout a six-day session of activities. 

“The learning opportunities and experiences provided by the camp are invaluable,” said Camp Burnt Gin Director Marie Aimone.. “Camp Burnt Gin helps children to improve their social skills, self-esteem and independence. The camp’s activities are not only fun but help develop skills for a healthy, active lifestyle.”  

This summer’s sessions operate from June to August, and programming focuses on three age groups: 7-15, 16-20 and 21-25. Activities include swimming, arts and crafts, sports, and nature learning, and skits, carnivals, dances, and treasure hunts are part of special evening events. 

Click here to help Camp Burnt Gin claim this title!

How Can Campers Apply?

The camp is also accepting applications for the 2020 season.

“Camp Burnt Gin offers a variety of activities for children, teens and young adults who might not otherwise have a camping experience because of their health care needs,” Aimone said. “Some of the campers we serve live with physical disabilities like orthopedic conditions, hearing loss, epilepsy, sickle cell anemia, heart disease, cerebral palsy and craniofacial conditions.”

Camp Burnt Gin is seeking staff for the 2020 season, too, including counselors, activity specialists, waterfront assistants and nurses. 

“Working at Camp Burnt Gin is an excellent opportunity for someone planning a career in education, health-related professions or social services to gain experience,” said Thomas Carr, a seven-year staff member at the camp. “You come to Burnt Gin with the desire to make a difference in the life of a young person, but what you don’t realize is how much you can learn from the campers on a professional and personal level.”

The deadline for campers to apply for Camp Burnt Gin’s 2020 season is March 1. To apply as a camper or staff member, contact Marie at 803-898-0784 or campburntgin@dhec.sc.gov.

For more information, visit www.scdhec.gov/campburntgin.