Posted by Positive Aging SourceBook on 12/23/2020

Passing the Test

Passing the Test

2020 has been a test. We can all agree on that.

The test that COVID-19 has presented has been particularly challenging for the senior living industry. But some shining stars in the industry are not just passing; they are excelling. 

Knollwood is one of those cases. Knollwood is a life plan community serving officers from the uniformed services, high-ranking government officials, and their families. From the early days of the pandemic, Knollwood has taken a proactive approach to fighting COVID-19 and keeping residents safe. and it’s working. The community has kept transmission levels down and prevented cases in its independent living neighborhood. The key tools in their fight against COVID-19? Testing, testing, and testing.

Col. Paul Bricker, Chief Operating Officer at Knollwood, equates the community’s COVID-19 efforts to preparing for battle. “I faced the enemy in Afghanistan and Iraq. There are so many ways in which we approached dealing with COVID that was similar to preparing for war. It’s a certain way you have to think when you’re dealing with a killer. And that’s what COVID is,” he said. 

Studying and Testing

In early March, Knollwood established a Clinical Review Board made up of key members of management who can quickly address critical issues. The Board helps ensure that all managers are informed and the needs of all departments are met. 

Starting in April, the community began to see clearly what their biggest challenge would be: asymptomatic patients. This realization began when a resident who had no symptoms tested positive following her death from other causes. Just a few days later, some residents in the skilled nursing center began to show symptoms. 

The community’s leadership knew that all staff and residents needed to be tested for COVID-19 to effectively contain the virus. They simply could not fight this invisible enemy unless they knew exactly who had it. 

Knollwood reached out to the health department for assistance with testing everyone, but they were told that tests were only available for patients with symptoms. Realizing they were on their own, the community acted. They found a private lab to test all staff and residents within 48 hours. 

“The stakes are really high. If this virus gets inside your community and you’re not prepared to protect your residents and employees, then you’re at risk. That is why you have to put in place all the tools that are available to you, and we believe testing is the most crucial tool,” Bricker explained during a recent digital discussion hosted by Positive Aging Sourcebook

When the results came in, the community found 18 positive residents and 13 positive employees. Many of them were presymptomatic or asymptomatic. The community isolated residents, sent employees home with pay, and started changing shifts to cover the employees who needed to quarantine. 

Knollwood continued testing residents and employees on a regular basis until May. “It was relentless; we just continued to test and react so we could contain this thing,” Becker recalled. 

“We had our last resident test positive on the first of May. We finally contained the virus,” Becker continued. “We have now been virus free for nine weeks, and we feel strongly that testing is the reason for that. Going forward, testing will inform all our operational decisions.”

Rapid Testing

When a local donor heard about Knollwood’s efforts to perform comprehensive testing to keep their community safe, they acquired and donated an Abbott Rapid ID Now® COVID-19 testing machine. This equipment allows the community’s clinical team to conduct onsite, real time tests.

All tests are administered by certified clinicians, and results are verified by an off-site lab. The lab ensures Knollwood is ready to process tests any time to remain as safe as possible until a vaccine is developed.

Ongoing Testing

Knollwood continues to test employees and residents in their skilled nursing and assisted living neighborhoods every week. The community also performed baseline tests in independent living and confirmed that there was no COVID-19 in independent living. As of early July, the community had performed more than 1,800 tests.

In addition to keeping their residents and staff safe, Knollwood has shared their experiences and best practices with other local communities and practitioners. The community is now a strong advocate for early and continuous testing. They will keep testing—until the ultimate test that is COVID-19 has finally passed.

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