To comply with directives from local and state Departments of Health,
WE ARE RESTRICTING ALL VISITATION at our skilled nursing facilities and assisted living
communities at this time. Independent living residents over age 65 are asked to self-isolate.
Staffing Implications of COVID-19
Let me start by saying that I am incredibly thankful for all of you, and I pray daily for God’s supernatural hand of protection over you and those whom He has entrusted to our care. I know these are scary times, and you are being called upon to serve in an environment of extreme uncertainty.
I understand that there are many of you who are working with conditions that put you on the list of those most at risk for serious complications if you contract COVID-19. While we cannot make any promises, we will do everything we can to assign staff in a way that takes into consideration these situations as you make us aware of them.
The good news is that our facilities have essentially been in quarantine for almost three weeks now. Those of you who work in our New York skilled and assisted living facilities have been wearing surgical masks for over two weeks to help prevent, unknowingly, introducing the virus into our communities.
I want to assure you that we are meeting daily to evaluate the ever changing realities of our life with COVID-19. We currently have supplies of PPE and are working to acquire more in anticipation of a positive case in one of our facilities. In addition, we are taking the following steps to ensure continued operations and support for those who need our services:
- Each nursing home has been working to relocate residents so that we can have a contained area for new admissions of those from hospitals and homes. These individuals are essentially being quarantined and watched closely for symptoms of COVID-19.
- Table top drills have been performed to assure that your teams are ready, and we have taken the most conservative approach to the use of PPE by our staff. PPE will be required to be worn when caring for any resident who has symptoms until we know for certain that they are not COVID-19 positive. We will immediately limit the number of staff who will be working with those residents.
- With the temporary easing of Medicare regulations, the COVID-19 task force will be working closely with our SNF administrators to select locations in our facilities that can be used for isolation of both in-house developed cases of COVID-19 and in the eventuality that we will be expected and required to admit patients who have already been diagnosed with COVID-19 in order to support our hospitals.
- To accommodate for the added stress and PPE requirements, a $2 per hour bonus program has been established for nurses and CNAs who directly provide care to a COVID-19 or COVID-19 suspected resident. We are hopeful that there will be some employees who will let us know that they are willing to care for these residents.
- Laundry services are being offered to relieve the stress of possibly carrying the virus home to your family on you clothes.
Thank you again for your dedication and for all you do! #HeritageStrong
President and CEO
View previous communications below
Dear Residents, Families, and Community Members,
We are grateful to report that as of this writing, none of our Heritage or Heritage affiliated communities have any positive cases of COVID-19. We continue to work diligently to ensure the health and safety of our residents and staff.
As mentioned in my last communication, residents of our skilled nursing facilities are being closely monitored for any signs or symptoms. We continue to check temperatures three times per day. The same is true in our assisted living communities with temperatures being taken twice daily. We continue to reach out to those who reside in our independent living communities to check on their health and have expanded our services to include meal delivery and grocery pick up.
The leadership teams of our communities have completed table top drills and each community currently has the necessary personal protective equipment in place for the safety of our staff, should we have a positive case. In the event of a positive case, each skilled nursing facility has a dedicated location for those individuals. Staff are aware of the procedures that will be followed to assure their safety and to avoid any potential spread throughout the facility.
I want to remind you that we are now going on 18 days since our communities essentially went into a quarantine scenario. All visitation was stopped and all congregate dining and large group activities were discontinued. Staff have been wearing surgical masks anytime they are working in direct care areas. All of these steps have been taken to avoid unknowingly introducing COVID-19 into our facilities.
In addition to the steps being taken to assure the health of your loved ones, our teams are working diligently to provide opportunities for life enrichment and connection with those under our care. Please feel free to contact the appropriate facility if you want to arrange a virtual visit. Additionally, in some of our communities, window visits may be possible.
We have been blessed to receive many donations from the community, and we know that many of you are praying for our residents and staff. Words cannot express how important your support is to our care teams! We continue to seek God’s supernatural protection for our residents, staff, and communities.
Heritage President and CEO
Letter to Employees
Let me start this letter by saying “THANK YOU” for all you are doing to assure the safety and well-being of those we serve during these difficult times. Words cannot begin to express how grateful we are for all of you who daily promote Hope, Dignity, and Purposeful Living!
There are now active cases of COVID-19 being reported in all of the counties we serve except for Crawford County, PA, and they are surrounded on all sides. There is little doubt that at some point in the very near future our facilities will begin to be directly impacted by a resident or staff member who tests positive for COVID-19.
We are as ready as we can be. The COVID Task Force has been following the guidelines of the CDC as well as our local, state, and federal regulatory bodies. They continue to work behind the scenes to update policies and procedures, prepare communications, and stay abreast of the ever changing regulatory environment.
Today we finalized the policies and procedures which will be implemented for each level of care should any of our communities have a positive or presumptive positive case of COVID-19. Your facility administrator/director will have these policies available no later than tomorrow. They will be posted for your review and will be communicated through whatever channels they feel are most effective for your community.
At this time, it is even more critical for you to avoid any possible external contacts with someone who may have been exposed. Your health and well-being are of the utmost of importance to us, but they are even more critical to those we serve.
Please know that at some point, there will likely be someone under our care who has COVID-19. Our skilled nursing facilities exist for times such as this. We are required to be willing to accept someone who has already tested positive, and we may be asked to do so by the local hospital should they become over burdened with cases. I have the utmost confidence in our frontline staff to utilize the appropriate protocols to avoid further internal spread in our facilities.
I want to take this opportunity to remind you of the very confidential nature of the work we do. Please be extra careful to avoid HIPPA violations and to maintain the privacy of our residents and your coworkers. Relative to COVID-19, NO staff member should be communicating with the media or a residents’ family without approval from the facility administrator or director.
The coming weeks are going to be tough. We will see exponential increases in COVID-19, but there is one thing I know for certain. In these chaotic times, God is still in control. He has been faithful to Heritage for over 130 years. We pray for His continued guidance, faithfulness, and blessing, as well as a supernatural protection of our residents and staff, as we serve those whom He has entrusted to our care.
President and CEO, Heritage Ministries
How Churches Can Help
We are walking through all kinds of changes impacting our communities in these days. One part of our local communities that could receive special care and ministry these days are our local skilled nursing facilities and retirement communities.
Here are a few ways your church could help:
- PRAYER: Pray for our residents. Many of them are in situations with ever-changing restrictions, with visitors banned and group activities extremely limited. Pray for encouragement. Pray for all of our workers in senior care facilities — that God would strengthen, encourage, and use them to be a blessing to others. Pray that chaplains and Christian workers would be able to share the love of Jesus with co-workers and residents. Pray for Lutheran, Tanglewood Manor, Magnolia (Frewsburg Rest Home), Absolut Care, Heritage Ministries, Chautauqua Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, and many other facilities in our region.
- CARDS AND PHONE CALLS: If your church has a connection to someone in a nursing facility, call them. Check in on them. A “thinking of you” phone call goes a long way. Also, letters are a phenomenal source of encouragement. Perhaps your church could “sponsor a local facility.” Church members could write encouragement notes, even sharing about themselves and their family, like a pen pal introductory letter. These would be a welcome respite for many residents. A church could call the front desk or activities office at most facilities and make these connections.
- CHILDCARE: Many staff members in senior care also have to navigate school closings and determine how they will balance work and childcare. If people in your church have friends, neighbors, or family members who work in senior care/nursing, pleaseconsider how you might provide some childcare to them, if you are able to do so safely and responsibly. This is a ministry that multiplies in its impact. In providing childcare, you are allowing someone to have the time to continue to work and serve our seniors.
If you’d like to discuss these ideas further, need a starting point, or have other suggestions, please contact me. I look forward to how we can pray and serve together.
Senior Chaplain, Heritage Ministries
Letter for Skilled Nursing
Residents, Families, and Friends of Heritage,
I am glad to be able to reassure all of our residents, staff, families and friends at this time that all of our facilities still do not have any confirmed cases of Coronavirus. We have followed all of the guidelines put into place by local, state and federal departments and organizations and are confident we are as prepared as we can be to deal with this pandemic as it continues to grow in our regions. In an attempt to keep families well aware of the most recent recommendations by regulatory bodies, below are some of the most recent directives:
- No Visitation – Multiple agencies have prohibited all visitation to Skilled Nursing facilities and Assisted Living/Enriched Housing Facilities. We continue to diligently work to ensure we have sufficient and effective methods of communication in place so residents can communicate with their families during this time.
- No Communal Dining – The Federal Government has prohibited communal dining in the Skilled Nursing Setting. While there are a few exceptions to this as medically necessary, all meals in our Skilled Nursing and Assisted Living/Enriched Housing Facilities are being served to our residents in the comforts of their room. We are enlisting all of the staff we can to ensure everyone has the assistance they need to eat and continue to receive the nutrition they need to stay healthy.
- No Group Activities – A directive has also been given by the Federal Government to prohibit all group activities. Our residents need just as much if not more socialization during this period so all of our activity and facility staff are working together to ensure residents have individual activities to do, and remain actively engaged.
While these are just a few of the near overwhelming guidelines and precautions we are facing, I wanted to ensure all of our residents, families, friends and employees that Heritage Ministries is continuing to put the safety of our residents at the forefront of everything we do. I would encourage you to continue to check our Facebook page and websites for important updates.
Heritage Ministries has had the pleasure of serving members of our community throughout its 130 years of history. There have been trying times in the past and there will be many more difficult times in the road ahead. The constant during that time has been the unwavering support of our residents and their families, the dedication and passion of our employees, and God’s faithfulness in every situation. As we expect this virus to have even more of a direct impact on our communities in the coming weeks, we will continue to need that same dedication, support and prayers to ensure the health and wellbeing of all of those entrusted to our care.
Regional Manager Skilled Nursing Operations
Statement for Employees
We understand that this is a very uncertain and confusing time for many people. Please know that we have a team that has been working tirelessly to stay up to date with all of the new recommendations that come from our local, state, and federal governments. Our primary focus is the safety and well-being of our residents and staff. As such, we are providing some updates that we feel will be pertinent to our staff:
PPE– We have been in contact with the DOH to get more masks for staff. In the meantime, we have recruited a team of sewers that are making fabric mask sleeves to assist in prolonging the life of each mask. If the need arises, we will also work on making cotton masks. Please understand that the current mask requirements are to limit the spread of the disease from employees who may have been infected but are asymptomatic.
Resident Engagement– Because we have been required to eliminate all group dining and activities for our residents, we are asking everyone to assist in brightening the day of each and every resident. Sometimes just an extra smile can go a long way. Also, if you have any ideas on activities that can be done in a non-group setting, we welcome any suggestions and encourage you to take action!
Referral Bonus– To assist in recruitment and provide the opportunity for staff to earn extra money, there will be a temporary increase in the employee referral bonus. Given the layoffs occurring in other industries, we are taking the opportunity to promote careers at Heritage. You can help by referring your friends and earn more money at the same time. See the postings for more information.
Missed Work and Paid Sick Leave– With the spread of the virus comes concerns relative to attendance policies and lack of pay if an employee is forced to miss work. There are many proposed paid sick leave options being suggested by state and federal governments. We are working with experts to determine the impact on our staff and will provide more information as it becomes available.
While our attendance policy will remain in effect, no employees will be terminated as a result of attendance until further notice. Once we are through the current crisis, we will evaluate the effects of the virus on employee attendance and will adjust employee’s records if facts indicate that is something that should be done.
It is our understanding that many physicians’ offices and urgent care centers are not seeing patients to provide return to work notices. We still encourage you to try and get a return to work note if you miss three or more days of work, so that we are confident that you are able to return without any risk to co-workers or residents. If you are unable to do so, we will review this on a case-by-case basis.
Last, if you have been in contact with someone who has been confirmed with COVID-19 or someone that was around a confirmed case, please let us know. Again, we will be determining each situation on a case-by-case basis.
We sincerely appreciate everyone’s hard work during this difficult time! Thank you for all you do for our residents. We could not do this without you!
President and CEO
Message from David Smeltzer
David Smeltzer, Heritage President and CEO, recently sent a message to all family members of those in our care via our telephone alert system. Please note, these calls came from our corporate offices at The Green in Greenhurst, NY. To listen to the full audio clip, click the link below.
Letter to Friends of Heritage
As COVID 19/Coronavirus is an ever-changing, fluid situation, we want to provide an update of new restrictions that will be implemented immediately. These are in addition to the steps we outlined in our letter to you last week. Please know, our response team is diligently monitoring updates and recommendations from local, state, and federal agencies on an hourly basis and will make any necessary changes to continue to ensure the health of our residents.
- We will be offering grocery delivery services to our independent living residents to help mitigate risk by reducing your off-site travel
- At this time, we are asking for non-medically necessary visitation to stop. In the case of essential visitors, a screening form must be completed. Any exceptions to the screening or this practice will be at the sole discretion of the facility administrator
- At this time, we are asking our residents to adopt the following best practices and guidelines as they have been communicated from various governmental bodies:
- Avoid group gatherings over 10
- Self-isolation if over the age of 65
- Reduce unnecessary travel and appointments
- Utilize grocery delivery service as offered above
- If you must leave the building, a screening form must be completed upon re-entry
- There will be no group dining; meals will be delivered to apartment residents
- No group activities
- IL residents in cottages or homes may order take-out meals which can be picked up outside the main entrance if applicable
At this time, there continues to be NO confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 in any of our communities. The steps we are implementing are directly tied to the recommendations of the CDC, as well as state and local health departments, and we will continue to adjust our policies and procedures as needed. The facilities will continue to reach out to families with any changes as able, and we encourage you to monitor our websites and Facebook pages for the latest facility information. Administrators will also be communicating updates as they occur.
We are committed to the safety and well-being of our residents and have put these measures in place to keep our residents safe. Please do not hesitate to reach out to the facility with any questions or concerns you may have and bear with us as we work to take quick action when needed while trying to keep our residents and families well informed of these changes. Working together, we can minimize the impact of this virus on our community and continue to promote Hope, Dignity, and Purposeful Living to each and every resident in our care.
*Please note, these guidelines are specifically for independent living residents, and do not apply to other levels of care.
Vice President of Marketing, Sales, and Development
On behalf of the Heritage Leadership Team
Letter to Staff
These are unprecedented times in our world. The response to COVID-19 has been more extreme than any other previous mass healthcare concern in recent history. There is no one who isn’t being impacted in some way by the actions being taken to diminish the spread of this potentially deadly virus. We know that each person’s response to this pandemic varies greatly, but I believe it is safe to say that most individuals are experiencing some degree of stress or anxiety at a result.
We recognize that the steps being taken by our government to try and limit the spread in the near future are having a direct impact on everyone. Toilet paper seems to be the new currency. Schools are closing and larger gatherings are being eliminated.
You, our partners in care, are certainly not exempt from the impact. We recognize that for those of you with school age children, the recent school closures have added another layer of stress to this already intense situation. While we do not have the capacity or ability to provide direct support, we want you to know that we are extremely sympathetic to your situation. If there is anything we can do to adjust your schedule or work dates, please do not hesitate to contact your supervisor or facility HR director, and we will make every effort to make adjustments as possible.
At Heritage, it is our mission to care for those who have been determined to be at highest risk of death if infected. We are doing everything we can to stay on top of the ever changing regulations. We apologize that there are times when our communications change or seem to be unclear. We appreciate your patience!
YOU are the key to our success. Now more than ever, we are asking you to work as a team to assure that those we serve are safe, secure, and comfortable. The work you do is truly not just a job; it’s a calling. We appreciate your commitment to those whom God has entrusted to our care!
In what was likely the last church service at Bemus Point United Methodist Church for the foreseeable future, our pastor shared from the following scripture:
28Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31but those who HOPE in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Now more than ever, we put our hope in the Lord!
President and CEO
We are closely watching the events unfold surrounding COVID-19. The situation is evolving quickly and we are working around-the-clock to stay on top of it. Expect continued communication, to keep you all up-to-date on the ever-changing needs and requirements for staying ahead of this situation.
Our residents, the children,and families we serve are counting on us to help them today and in the future. Our teams have mobilized and created a COVID task force to quickly share information and implement changes as needed.
Below is a recap of what Heritage has implemented across all communities, as well as how our employees can help to keep everyone safe and well-cared for.
What Heritage is doing:
- We are continuously monitoring the situation to ensure we have the latest information to share with all of our locations.
- We have increased the cleaning schedule and sanitizing at all of our locations.
- We have analyzed our supply chain to identify any potential shortages and are working to shore up potential gaps.
- We are utilizing multiple contact methods to communicate with employees, residents,and families.
- We have a number of online collaboration tools that will be used in the absence of face-to-face meetings.
- We have capabilities currently in place at a majority of our locations to promote “virtual visiting” for residents and families. We have additional solutions coming soon to enhance the systems already in place.
- We have provided adjustments across each community to effectively do our part in flattening the curve and risk.
Heritage is dedicated to ensuring our communities, employees,and those we serve remain in a safe environment. We are taking what we believe to be the most proactive approach in an ever-changing situation. Our goal is to continually assess the situation and take the necessary actions to prepare for any changes. We are deeply grateful for, and humbled by, our employees, residents, families, and communities who are working together to ensure the safety and well-being of those we serve – thank you! Now more than ever, we will embrace our mission with grace, love, and compassion,while we continue to promote “Hope, Dignity, and Purposeful Living.”
Vice President of Marketing, Sales, and Development
On behalf of the Heritage Leadership Team
Letter to Friends of Heritage
Dear Friends of Heritage,
As you are aware from news reports, there are confirmed cases of Coronavirus/COVID-19 occurring in our state. Heritage Ministries is committed to taking the appropriate steps and precautions in order to keep our residents and employees safe. Although there are no suspected or confirmed cases here in our community at this time, we are taking proactive steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among our residents and staff. The steps we are implementing are directly tied to the recommendations of the CDC, as well as state and local Health Departments, and we will continue to adjust our policies and procedures as needed.
To comply with directives from Governor Cuomo and New York State Department of Health, we are, effective immediately, restricting all visitation at our Skilled Nursing Facilities and Assisted Living Facilities at this time. We are actively trying to reach out to families personally to inform them of this change. The facilities will continue to reach out to families with any changes as able but encourage you to monitor our website and Facebook page for the latest facility updates.
All facility staff are working on systems to be able to allow family members to communicate with their loved ones via telephone or video conferencing. Please contact the facility to have them assist in setting up specific times so we can ensure all residents and families have the ability to do so.
The facilities are now limiting larger gatherings of employees and residents and keeping them to small groups at this point to limit possible exposure. Our activity and dining service staff are working with facility staff to ensure we are still promoting each residents’ highest well-being and making all of their nursing and non-nursing related needs continue to be met daily.
Heritage Ministries is committed to the safety and well-being of our residents and has put these measures in place to first and foremost keep our residents safe. We have a team in place that is diligently monitoring news updates and guidance from local, state, and federal agencies on an hourly basis and will make any necessary updates to continue to ensure the health of our residents. Please do not hesitate to reach out the facility with any questions or concerns you may have and bear with us as we work to take quick action when needed while trying to keep our residents and families well informed of these changes. Working together, we can minimize the impact of this disease on our community and continue to promote Hope, Dignity, and Purposeful Living to each and every resident in our care.
Regional Manager of Skilled Nursing Operations
To comply with directives from local and state Departments of Health, WE ARE RESTRICTING ALL VISITATION at our skilled nursing facilities and assisted living communities at this time. Visitation hours for independent living communities are 10am to 7pm.
Statement from Heritage Regarding COVID-19
David Smeltzer, Heritage president and CEO recognized this week that Heritage is prepared should COVID-19 coronavirus reach Chautauqua County. Heritage presently serves over 1,200 seniors in their independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing communities throughout the county.
Smeltzer stressed that while Heritage currently has NO confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus, they are taking precautions.
He shared, “At Heritage, our residents and those we serve are our highest concern. The health and safety of both our residents and staff is of the utmost importance, and we are taking action to reduce the risk of exposure for all. The steps we are implementing are directly tied to the recommendations of the CDC and New York State Department of Health, and we will adjust our steps if those recommendations change. We are not holding events that bring outside groups of people, and are minimizing large group and outside trip activities to lessen the chance of exposure. Our staff has been well trained in preparation to support our residents.”
Presently, visitors are being limited at all Heritage communities, and any individuals, including vendors and employees are being screened daily before entering a Heritage building. Those who exhibit any symptoms, have recently traveled, or have been near anyone ill with symptoms are not currently being granted entrance.
Heritage staff has prepared extensively for any potential cases in the area. Lisa Haglund, Heritage vice president of sales, marketing, and development, explained that she has confidence in the team. “Heritage has taken a proactive approach to prevent the spread and transmission of COVID-19 within its communities. Heritage has formed a COVID-19 task force, including experts in the fields of nursing homes, and senior housing, and includes a CDC certified infection preventionist. I have the utmost confidence that this team of experts have prepared Heritage to respond in a manner that keep our residents, staff, and families safe.”
Statement from Heritage Regarding COVID-19
At Heritage, our residents and those we serve are our highest concern. We would like to assure the public that we currently have no suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) at Heritage. The health and safety of both our community members and staff is of the utmost importance, and we are taking action to reduce the risk of exposure for all.
The steps we are implementing are directly tied to the recommendations of the CDC and the New York State Department of Health, and we will adjust our steps if those recommendations change.
- Effective immediately, we are asking visitors to not enter our communities if they are exhibiting any type of symptoms or have recently traveled to any area of concern.
- We are limiting events that bring outside groups of people to Heritage communities and are minimizing large group and outside trip activities to lessen the chance of exposure.
- Our staff has been well trained in preparation to support our residents.
We thank everyone for their patience and cooperation. Working together we can minimize the impact of this disease on our community.