VIDEO: St. Francis' new facility encourages seniors to live independently

Two-thirds of Delaware's deaths from COVID-19 have occurred in long-term care centers  and at least one agency has stepped up big for this high-risk population during the pandemic.

Saint Francis LIFE provides nursing home level care for seniors who wish to stay in their homes. 

"We do home care, primary care, rehab, an adult day center, and also all the transportation around that so we can take care of them, so they can stay with their families in their home," said Amy Milligan, executive director of the Saint Francis LIFE, told WDEL's Del-AWARE. "We know them as individuals as well; we know their families; we know what's going in their home, how they live, who are their caretakers, what things are important to them, and then you combine it with the social services as well as the medical piece to make sure they get everything they need to remain safe."

But coronavirus forced them to shift their model a bit. Milligan sad they had to close their center on the Wilmington Riverfront and become a 100- percent home model.

"So that [we're] decreasing the risk to this vulnerable population coming out and about into the community, into the center, we had to start taking all of our services out there," she explained.

"The day center is where people come, not only for social activities, but also if they have an appointment with [their doctor], or they need some rehab, or they just need socialization," she said. "Or lastly, we have a large population that as dementia, and their family members have to work and so they come in here during the day so we can keep them safe."

While not necessarily new to being in the home, social workers, physical therapists, and nurses had to be cross-trained to do a little bit of everything and are now facing a new set of challenges from personal protective equipment shortages to the fear seniors were facing.

"[They're dealing with] who else was in the home with them, what was best for them, the isolation that an elderly personal feels when they're at home for that amount of time because a lot of them--we're their only access to the outside world, so it kind of changed the focus of not just your typical what's going on medically, what's going on socially, but how we keep them engaged and not take the risks that they have as frail elderly and make it worse during this isolation."

She said even after the center reopens, telehealth is likely here to stay, but she pointed out there's a barrier with the elderly population and telehealth services that Saint Francis LIFE is working to overcome.

"They don't necessarily have the technology that somebody else might have, 'oh let me get on my iPad and talk to the doctor.' But we either have the aides go into the home, and we help with the technology in the home. But also, it has taken all of our clinicians and all of our disciplines, and they've gotten really good at it, so we've actually interacted with our participants more because we have another modality, and we are absolutely going to continue that going forward."

"We've always talked about in health care about 'we need to take care of the whole person,' this model actually does that," said Milligan.

Anyone who wants to learn more about St. Francis Life can call 302.660.3351 or can click here.