The safety and well-being of your loved one is our highest priority. We are blessed to include them as part of our Bethesda family. As a team, we are working through the coronavirus / COVID-19 situation, proactively taking steps to stay ahead of the curve, help stop the spread of the virus, and keep people safe. We recognize the fear anxiety that this situation is causing across the country and beyond. We feel it too.
Parents and guardians understandably have many questions, and we have answers. At several town hall sessions with parents and guardians, we heard questions that we have answered below. We will continue to update this FAQ as the situation changes and more questions are asked – so check back regularly.
My state/community is opening up. When will Bethesda return to business as usual?
We truly understand and sympathize the desire to go back to normal. We want that too. But the risks presented by COVID-19 are real, and they have not vanished. What may be right for a retail shop may not be right for a group home. Every state, county and community is different, and their status can change by the day.
Because the people we support often have comorbidities that make them especially vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19, we need to be extra careful before we change how we operate. We are keeping close tabs on each of our homes and people supported and are actively planning for in-person visits as soon as possible, with proper precautions in place. This will be a home-by-home and individual by individual decision – not all will open at once.
What is the current status of Bethesda’s programs?
As of June 15, 2020, all Bethesda homes are at Level 3 or higher, meaning “high risk” (see below for a description of all levels). Therefore, no visitors are allowed in person. Bethesda Day programs continue to be closed. We monitor each local situation to make a home-by-home determination of level, balancing the need for safety with the need for people we support to see their loved ones in person.
Ordinarily, it would be necessary to move to Level 2, meaning “precaution,” before any visits could be allowed. However, we feel it is prudent to allow for a loosening of restrictions in what we are calling a “Phased Down Level 3.”
Can you remind me about the various levels of risk and what they mean?
All Bethesda homes are at this level or higher as of June 15, 2020.
What will guide your decisions?
We will consider four official “gating” criteria to allow for a move to Phased Down Level 3 and visits:
If all four criteria are met, does that mean a visit is guaranteed?
Not necessarily. We will rely on the judgment of the local team and regional leadership, as they know the people they support and the home situation the best.
One reason we would not open would be if we suspect a big spike in community cases is coming – for example, following a holiday like Memorial Day or other large gatherings where it is apparent that social distancing and hygiene recommendations were not being followed. Data on this wouldn’t show up officially until it was too late.
What will a visit look like?
Once an individual home moves to a Phased Down Level 3, a visit will be tightly controlled, with safety protocols in place. People will gather outdoors on our property while maintaining social distancing. Everyone will wear masks and avoid physical touching or hugging.
How will I know if a visit is possible?
We will be in touch as soon as we have determined it is safe to visit. You are also welcome to call us to inquire.
How many people can visit at a time?
While this is at the discretion of the home and leadership, generally speaking, two people will be permitted.
What days/times will visits be possible?
Visits will take place when it is least disruptive to the home. Times to be avoided include mealtimes or when medications are being distributed.
How long will visits be?
That will be determined by the team in the home, in concert with leadership, but an hour is a good guideline. We want to make sure there is enough time for a visit to be meaningful, while being mindful of staffing and other considerations.
Can a person supported go for a walk up the street during a visit?
Not now. Outside of the controlled environment it is more likely to be exposure to the coronavirus.
If visits are not allowed, how can I connect with my loved one?
We strongly encourage video visits via Zoom, which have been popular, or phone calls.
Can I just wave to them, or knock on their window?
While that sounds harmless, it really isn’t. It can be disruptive to others in the home and potentially confusing or concerning to your loved one. So we cannot permit this. Thank you for understanding.
When will day programs reopen?
This is to be determined in the future, on a program-by-program basis. Day programs present challenges with having multiple people supported in a closed, indoor environment. We may change programs to include fewer people or to add outdoor activities to promote social distancing. It is possible that some day programs will not reopen. However, we recognize the value of programs like this to keeping people we support active, and we are committed to finding safe ways to do so.
Are people supported going on outings?
No outings into the community are occurring at this time. Again, this is for the safety of your loved one and our staff.
Are you monitoring people you support?
We have processes in place to identify anyone who is symptomatic and immediately address the situation. This starts with taking temperatures and monitoring general health. If a person we support is symptomatic, they will be tested, and if positive, will be in self-quarantine just like anyone else. Please rest assured, we will continue to care for your loved one.
How can I be sure staff members are not sick?
We are closely monitoring staff to ensure that they are not coming to work sick. All staff are instructed to stay home if they are not feeling well. If staff are symptomatic, we have processes in place including taking their temperature and getting them tested. Staff who test positive will be sent home to self-quarantine.
What happens if the staff gets sick? Who will care for my loved one?
We have detailed contingency plans in place for this exact situation. Our plans including bringing in new hires and transporting existing staff from other locations to help. Your loved one will absolutely be taken care of.
Can I take my loved one home for a visit? We will just be at home and not go anywhere.
Unfortunately, we cannot allow at-home visits, even for a short period of time. This is for the health and safety of everyone involved. Our staff provides support under strict health protocols. While parents and guardians have the best intentions, we simply have no way to know whether a person supported has been exposed, and thereby poses a risk to others in a home if they return.
My loved one is really struggling. Can I remove him/her from their home?
Of course. But we strongly discourage this. Please understand that they will not be able to return to their home for a minimum of two weeks. It is possible that those who leave will not have a place to return to later on – it depends on the local situation, including the managed care organization responsible for funding and placement. That said, we are open to exploring options if necessary.
How can I stay in touch with my loved one?
Until in-person visits are a possibility, there are a few options to make sure you keep that important connection. Phone calls or Facetime are great ways to stay in touch. We have now begun facilitating video chats using an online meeting tool (Zoom) that we would be happy to coordinate for you. Please contact your staff for details.
How are you keeping my loved one active/engaged?
Our staff members are engaging people we support in a variety of activities intended to keep them physically, spiritually and intellectually active. This includes a new and ever-increasing series of online programs. Each individual has a calendar of events prepared for them. This is especially important now that day programs or other activities have temporarily closed.
Are your staff still being paid? Is anyone losing their job?
Our in-home staff continue to be paid. Unlike many businesses that have laid off workers during these difficult circumstances, our need for staff has not decreased – simply put, we need everyone. Additionally, as people who have been displaced look for work, Bethesda may be a good career option. Please consider sharing that information. We encourage people with an interest in working for us to visit our Careers page.
I want to do something to help your staff and people you support. What can I do?
That is so generous! As a Christian organization, the first thing we ask for is your prayers. Please pray for the people we support, for your local Bethesda team, our organization and for all who are adversely affected by this situation. Financial donations are also welcome to offset the increased costs we are experiencing. Lastly, you can check with your local home staff to see if there are any games, crafts or activities that could be provided to benefit people we support.
Can I bring baked goods or other food items?
No – please do NOT bring food items at this time. While we appreciate the gesture very much, there are too many risks associated with food. Thank you for understanding.
Can I bring crafts, activities or games?
Yes, these items are welcome and can help staff and people supported enjoy their days. Please contact your local home. We will need to follow safety procedures when accepting these items.
How can I stay informed about what’s happening?
The COVID-19 situation changes daily, and there is a lot of information we wish to share. We aim to be a source of truth that you can trust. Options include: