Category: Recovery and Resilience

Dr. Ruth Spinner, Senior Medical Director on the Second Wave, Staying Safe During the Holidays and the Flu Shot

Text transcript of the interview with Dr. Spinner

Hi, my name is Dr. Ruth Spinner, and I’m a geriatrician and Senior Medical Director at The New Jewish Home. As Senior Medical Director, I oversee the medical staff at our nursing homes, and I also put policies and procedures in place to care for and protect the older adults under our care. I was also appointed in the spring as director of our COVID-19 task force.

In this role, I’ve been guiding our organization through the original outbreak in the spring through a relatively quiet summer, and now preparing us in case we have a second wave this fall. There’s been a lot of talk about whether we are going to see a second wave or a second surge, especially in New York City. Whether or not that happens, we can’t predict, but we do know that we’re in a much better position than we were when we were first hit in March.

First of all, we’ve got testing in place with quick results. We’re testing all of our staff and most of our residents on a routine basis. That way, if we detect anybody with positive results, Additionally, we’re doing contact tracing. So if somebody is positive, we’re finding out if they had contact with anybody else and we’re quarantining those people. This is an extremely effective way of preventing spread, and we have been doing this since the summer and through the fall. The other thing that we have are extremely tight infection control procedures, including the use of PPE. We’ve increased all of our stocks of PPE,  we’ve implemented eye shields, and are continuing to use PPE in the best possible protocols to protect our healthcare personnel.

This year, it’s more important than ever to get your flu shot. The flu shot is recommended for most people over the age of six months. Getting the flu shot can help prevent getting the flu. If you do get the flu, your symptoms, most likely, will be milder. The flu shot can help prevent hospitalizations in both children and adults and even death, in some cases. Additionally, as we are on the verge of flu season, and in the midst of the COVID pandemic, we want to prevent what’s being referred to as the “twin-demic”: outbreaks and surges of both viruses at the same time, that could cause a surge to the hospitals and the healthcare system.

There are many ways that you can enjoy the holiday season while still staying safe. We are still in the midst of the pandemic. It is important to avoid any unnecessary travel. We have many remote options, ways to see family remotely through Zoom, phone calls, and other ways. We’re on the verge of a vaccine, and hopefully, this time next year, we will be able to rejoin with families.

But for now, try and avoid unnecessary travel. If you will be meeting with family, outdoor options are safest. It’s always important to socially distance and wear masks. Even if you are with friends or family, it doesn’t mean that you or they won’t contract COVID-19 from each other. Many people are asymptomatic and don’t even know that they have it.

Get to Know Sonya Choudhury, a Long-term Care Nurse Practitioner at our Manhattan Campus

Get to know Sonya Choudhury, a long-term care nurse practitioner at our Manhattan campus, as she reflects on The New Jewish Home’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and how building meaningful relationships with residents leads to better clinical outcomes.

Continue Reading Get to Know Sonya Choudhury, a Long-term Care Nurse Practitioner at our Manhattan Campus

Helping Frail Cardiac Patients Get Well, Go Home and Stay Home

Marlene Konopolsky, who runs the Social Work Transitions program on our Westchester campus, provides expert care from the moment patients arrive for heart rehabilitation to three months after they are discharged home. “I’m essentially their care navigator for the next 12 weeks.”

A clinical social worker who has additional training in congestive heart failure, Marlene works with frail, chronically ill patients with various cardiac conditions who were admitted for short-stay rehabilitation. With the goal to reduce emergency room visits and re-hospitalizations, Marlene provides education and monitoring to help stabilize this medically complex group of patients. She has become an invaluable one-stop resource for these cardiac patients and their families, guiding them throughout their stay and during their transition back home.

“I’ll make sure they have all their medication,” Marlene said. “If they need transportation I’ll make those arrangements. I get involved with various agencies if the patient needs Medicaid, counseling services, legal help, advanced directives, or access to doctors.” She’ll even take on housing issues. “If a patient’s condition worsens at home, in most instances, we are able to bring the patient back to our facility instead of the hospital.”

How the Program Works

When patients with cardiac conditions are admitted after a hospitalization, the staff determines whether they are appropriate for the Social Work Transitions program. Marlene is involved in their care plan and makes sure their needs are met. She arranges and plans for their discharge, making sure they get all the equipment they need and coordinates their home care. She makes contact with the patient’s primary care physician as well as the cardiologist to ensure that an appointment is made within a week following discharge. While Marlene previously made home visits; these days she is more likely to drop in via phone or FaceTime.

The Patient Experience

Raymond Piedmont was a Social Work Transitions patient last year. He has been treated at The New Jewish Home’s Westchester campus several times, and his last discharge was in October 2019. “I had been laid up so long I forgot how to walk,” he said. “The people there were absolutely wonderful. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to do the things I’m doing now. I can walk without a cane.”

Marlene was there for him throughout his stay and beyond. “She would pop in once in a while to ask, do you have any questions? Is anything I can do for you? Whenever there was a care team meeting with the doctors, Marlene would be there.”

After Ray’s discharge, Marlene came to his home several times. “She asked specific questions — do you need this? Are you able to do that? Are you getting around? are you climbing stairs? She was assessing my situation, even without me having to say anything.”

Over the past few months, Marlene has worked with post-COVID patients who received rehabilitation therapy. One of her patients, Vinicia Rosario, was recently discharged. “She was with us from the beginning, and she was very attentive,” said Vinizia’s granddaughter, Cindy Hidalgo. “She answered all our questions. Marlene keeps us in the loop about everything in regard to my grandmother’s care. She said, ‘I’m your eyes and ears and voice when the team is meeting, since family members can’t be there.’ She held our hands and guided us through the entire recovery journey.”

Marlene is very accessible to patients and families. They can depend on her if an issue arises. “Families are so overwhelmed when they bring a patient home from the nursing home, it’s reassuring to know they can just pick up the phone and connect with me,” she said.

Just recently, she relates, she discharged a patient on Saturday and readmitted her on Sunday. “I spent a lot of time on the case with the patient’s niece, guiding her through the process of readmission and providing emotional support,” Marlene said.

Even on weekends, patients in the Social Work Transitions Program and their families can count on Marlene to be there for them. Thanks to this unique program, these patients have access to the expertise of a caring social worker whose commitment to them doesn’t end when they leave The New Jewish Home.

Photo: Patient Vinicia Rosario, front row second from the left and Social Worker Marlene Konopolsky to her right with the patient’s care team and family upon discharge home

Enhancing Care Through Deep Knowing

Mrs. L., a resident at Sarah Neuman, The New Jewish Home’s Westchester campus, was visited regularly by her husband. “He came religiously every day to help walk with her and care for her,” according to Miriam Levi, Assistant Administrator. “So it ripped him apart when we closed our doors in March because of COVID-19.” But, thanks to a person-directed care model, adopted six years ago by The New Jewish Home, Mr. L. was able to maintain frequent contact with his wife during the pandemic even though he couldn’t visit like he used to.  “The staff worked out a way he could come to a fence in the garden and see her, and he could call every day and be comforted by the fact that he was talking to someone who really knows his wife — her habits, likes and dislikes. That’s a big plus for residents and families.”

Continue Reading Enhancing Care Through Deep Knowing

Through Rehabilitation Therapy, Dedicated Clinicians Help Post-COVID Patients Recover

When Shelby was admitted to The New Jewish Home for short-stay rehabilitation after being hospitalized for COVID-19, she felt fearful and anxious. She needed extensive assistance for everything—she couldn’t even tolerate sitting in a wheelchair. By the time she was discharged, she was independent, able to care for herself and walk without any support.

Continue Reading Through Rehabilitation Therapy, Dedicated Clinicians Help Post-COVID Patients Recover

Making Spiritual Connections During COVID-19

Residents and patients at The New Jewish Home have always appreciated chaplaincy visits. During the pandemic, however, these visits evolved to provide deep emotional and spiritual care to meet the needs of our older adult clients. Each year, in conjunction with the Jewish Theological Seminary, The New Jewish Home helps train chaplains by hosting students in our Clinical Pastoral Education Program (CPE). We are one of the few nursing homes in the country to offer training to chaplain interns, and the only one accredited in New York State by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education as a training site for this crucial work.

Continue Reading Making Spiritual Connections During COVID-19
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