Vida Encantada in Las Vegas NM is a Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility that can house over 100 residents. Due to COVID-19, on March 11, 2020, Vida Encantada closed its doors to family visits and supportive care. Only staff were allowed to enter and exit the building from that day on until recently.
On that day in 2020, fear and high anxiety immediately set in, as all staff were instantly required to change the way everything was done, in order to prevent an outbreak in a high-risk healthcare environment. One positive case of COVID-19 could spread like wildfire, taking many casualties with it. Around the country, horror stories of massive nursing home fatalities were on the news daily. Vida Encantada has done better than most New Mexico facilities did, in that there have been zero fatalities due to COVID-19 as of December 2021.
Video calls, Facetime calls and different forms communication began immediately as Vida Encantada staff was mindful about the importance of family visits, and the sudden disruption of the resident’s daily routines. Residents were no longer able to see, hug, talk to, or visit loved ones and that lack of communication became a priority for Vida. An enclosure was built in the front of the building so families could safely visit their loved ones in addition to the phone and video calls.
Many protocols that Vida Encantada staff performed were in place before the New Mexico Department of Health made them mandatory, and they proved to be effective. Protocols were in place for transportation in and out of the facility, and additional bathroom sanitizing procedures were put in place. Staff quarantined themselves immediately for 14 days if exposed to a positive COVID case, for the sake of residents and they were tested multiple times before they returned, to ensure that they had not contracted the virus. Residents and staff were tested weekly and still continue to be tested weekly, to ensure that they have not contracted the virus.
The Activities Program did an exceptional job during the time that Vida was closed to all visitors, by keeping the residents occupied with one-on-one activities and they worked hard to keep them in great spirits. The community and the resident’s families came together four times for a mobile parade exclusively for the enjoyment and encouragement of the residents. These parades were very emotional for staff, residents and participants that all came together for the sake of their loved ones. Bright Beginnings Daycare across the street, Las Vegas City Police Department and the Las Vegas Fire Department helped to make the parades special for the residents. The Restorative Nursing Program kept residents physically active by exercising them and doing range of motion and supervised walking. The mental health of residents has also been a priority during quarantine and Vida Encantada began to utilize Medi-Telepsych services, which is a psychiatric and psychological service via zoom.
The NM state survey team and the resident advocate Ombudsman, both mentioned to Vida Encantada’s Administrator that they observed how happy the residents were, considering the extenuating circumstances. NM State Survey did their annual survey in January 2021 along with a COVID-19 State Survey and Vida Encantada had the lowest number of tags in many years, which was a total of five tags combined with Life Safety and Nursing.
As the DOH guidance was constantly changing in order to adapt to the challenges of COVID-19, the Administrator kept up with a weekly conference call with DOH’s Chris Burmeister and Secretary Katrina Lopez-Holtrum and Vida Encantada’s staff immediately adjusted to any new protocols. In addition to DOH guidance, the Administrator worked with and adhered to protocols/guidance set by the Center for Disease Control, NM Health Care Association, NM Department of Aging and Long-Term Care Services and NM Office of Epidemiology. Detailed reports are sent out weekly to the CDC regarding Vida Encantada’s testing, PPE and vaccinations. Resident’s Power of Attorneys and/or responsible parties were always informed of the guidance as well as when anyone in the facility had a positive COVID test.
Vida Encantada never experienced a shortage of PPE, testing supplies or hand sanitizer. Many of these supplies were donated to the facility from Western New Mexico University and also from Leo Maestas of San Miguel Emergency Management, now the City of Las Vegas’ City Manager. Vida is grateful to them, as their donations came in when Vida Encantada was running low.
From January through March, Walgreens came in to administer the vaccines and presently, David Saiz of Del Norte comes in to administer the vaccines that are available to all staff and residents. Del Norte also provides all of Vida’s pharmacy needs. Current statistics of vaccinations in the facility fluctuate but the average is 81% staff and Residents 93% but this does vary due to short term rehabilitation and admissions. The Governor and DOH’s goal is 90% Residents vaccinated and 80% Staff. Federal guidelines are requiring staff to be vaccinated unless medical or religious exemptions are in place.
As San Miguel County increased in COVID positive numbers in August 2021, there was an increase of COVID cases among staff and residents. Thankfully, staff was quarantined at home and residents were mostly asymptomatic while being quarantined in the COVID Unit. Vida was able to accomplish this by the diligent staff that worked as a team during the outbreak, by keeping cases isolated, as they all had the enormous responsibility of keeping all residents and all their coworkers protected and alive in the eye of the pandemic.
DOH guidance on visitation has now been in effect since Nov. 28, 2021, in which Vida Encantada is required to open its doors to visitation. However, there are still strong stipulations in place as masks are still a requirement as well as social distancing. Visits must only be conducted in the resident’s room after the visitor is screened and signed in. Visitors are not allowed in any areas of the facility such as hallways, lobby or the dining room. We are still practicing very astringent infection control practices as it is at the forefront of keeping all staff and residents safe from COVID-19 and its continuing variants.
We must keep our residents and staff safe, as the threat of COVID-19 and COVID-19 variants is not over. We at Vida Encantada pledge to continue keeping our residents and staff safe, and we encourage the community to do so also, for the sake of our elders and our 24/7/365 staff who have proved themselves to be heroes in the midst of this pandemic.