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SVNA: Home visits are vital — and safe

SALISBURY — Understandably, there is a “huge amount of fear and uncertainty” among the public as COVID-19 runs its course, said Nancy Deming, executive director of the Salisbury Visiting Nurse Association (SVNA).

That is why SVNA and its Home Assistance Program have taken steps to educate people about the steps the agency is taking to ensure patient safety. That includes strict adherence to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, in conjunction with a continuation of the agency’s long-standing practices for dealing with infectious diseases.

The agency is also now waiving its three-hour minimum per visit, to help the elderly and others who are most vulnerable with grocery shopping, laundry, meal prep and assistance with technology such as Facetime to help them connect via the internet with loved ones.

Deming said she is particularly worried about patients who are in need of medical care at home and are afraid to let anyone, including SVNA staff, into their home and risk contracting the coronavirus.

That fear, she said, could keep a patient from being treated for an illness that could be life-threatening, such as an open wound that needs its dressing changed, or someone suffering from congestive heart failure or a serious illness or who requires hospice care.

“We are trying to educate and reassure people of all the precautions that our staff are trained to take. I understand that coronavirus is highly contagious, but we have worked with contagious disease since our inception,” said Deming.

“We weigh every visit and conduct a risk assessment. We would never visit unnecessarily. And we do a lot of screening” with patients, and closely monitor who has recently visited the household.

For many, said Deming, the risk of going without visits could be greater than the risk of getting COVID-19.

“We don’t want anybody to end up back in the hospital because they are afraid to have a health care clinician coming to their home.”

SVNA recommends that everyone adhere to the preventative measures recommended by the CDC, such as social distancing and frequent handwashing.

Those who think they have been exposed to COVID-19 and then develop a fever, a cough, have difficulty breathing and show other potential symptoms should call their health care provider for medical advice.

The SVNA staff members, said its executive director, are often the doctors’ eyes and ears. The agency has seen an uptick in general inquiries in recent weeks, Deming said. The agency is glad to answer queries.

“We want to keep everybody safe — patients and staff.”

Deming praised the dedication of the SVNA nursing staff and caregivers in these unprecedented times.

“They are intrepid, and are taking it all in stride.”

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