Personal Care Community Overcomes COVID Challenges, Celebrates One Year Virus Free
When the COVID-19 pandemic began to emerge in the United States, one of the first communities to be hit the hardest was Oakwood Terrace, a 36-room personal care community in Moosic, Penn. The community, owned and operated by Premier Senior Living, LLC (PSL), a New York-based health care group, faced numerous challenges in the early days of the pandemic that resulted in some resident deaths. But, thanks to the quick action of staff and several safety measures successfully achieved, the community was able to swiftly vanquish the virus and has been COVID-free for more than a year now.
According to Michael Semian, Executive Director at Oakwood Terrace, the 25-year-old community had already been infected and was facing an uncertain future by the time it was discovered that the virus targeted the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions. What followed was more than a year of inflated death totals, quarantines, unanswered questions and overall confusion. The stretch was particularly difficult for the center because it had recently come under new management by PSL.
Semian said the fast implementation of an enhanced directive to deal with the pandemic helped to quell the spread of the virus. In March 2020, Oakwood Terrace was at about 75 percent capacity, but heightened health care restrictions did not allow for new admissions until June.
The First Wave Strikes in March 2020
When the first wave of the virus struck in March 2020, the first order of business for Semian and his staff weas to stockpile Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) like masks, gloves, shields and hand sanitizer.
“Our goal was to have a 30-day supply for every employee, every shift,” Semian said, adding there was some price gouging during a “rough patch” at the onset of the pandemic, but everything went smoothly for the most part.
“My OCD kicked in,” Semian said smiling. “But the ultimate goal was to gain trust and show that we’re safe and secure here.”
Staff also implemented measures to address the onslaught of the virus, like providing in-room dining and activities rather than gathering in groups in common areas. The community also eliminated its triple-up rooms that had three beds, now opting only for singles and doubles that provide more room to move.
Semian said another encouraging step was to place Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) on every shift for the first time ever.
As a result of Semian’s rapid and meticulous measures, Oakwood Terrace had its last confirmed positive test for COVID-19 more than a year ago, in April 2020. “It’s hard to believe that we’ve gone an entire year already without a confirmed case,” he said.
The Second Wave of Begins in June 2020
Following the initial troubles, Oakwood Terrace was able to reopen for admissions in June 2020 after not having a confirmed positive test in more than two months. According to Semian, one of the initial challenges the team faced was getting out a positive message.
“The first challenge we had was informing the public that we were the safer place to be. That it was safer here than at home.” At the time, the ongoing public narrative in the media was that health care facilities were not safe and overrun with ill patients.
“We had to let people know that their loved ones with memory care deficiencies were better off here than at home,” Semian said. “We took great care and thoughtfulness into everything we did.”
Semian said it boiled down to the acute needs of his patients.
“Facilities with more active patients have amenities like putting greens and swimming pools that can be difficult to use and still practice social distancing,” he said. “My residents enjoy simpler pleasures like getting their hair and nails done. It allows us to focus on good, clean comfortable care.”
Oakwood Terrace was able to sustain the second wave of the pandemic and did not experience any confirmed positive tests for the virus after April 2020. However, the community was forced to cease accepting patients in October 2020 as part of a state-ordered government mandate.
Oakwood Terrace would not resume accepting patients until Easter Weekend 2021, according to Semian.
Reflecting on COVID-19 One Year Later
Semian said he credits PSL’s commitment to its communities and staff as a major contributor to Oakwood Terraces continued success. He said PSL has great benefits and an excellent starting wage, so it’s easier for him to bring in quality staff.
“With [PSL’s] commitment, we can pick from the cream of the crop when it comes to our staff,” Semian said. “It has allowed us to continue to provide good care.”
Sheri Steele, Premier Senior Living’s Director of Marketing, said Semian’s experience, patience and kindness helped keep Oakwood Terrace operational, and optimistic, during the crisis.
“He worked extensive hours for several days in a row,” Steele said. “He always had the attitude that he was the least important person in the building.”
Semian has years of experience in the healthcare industry. He is a past President of the American Heart Association and has worked with the American Cancer Society and Santa for Soldiers. He has earned his Certificate in Gerontology and is a trained dementia practitioner with years of experience dealing with patients suffering from memory care issues like Alzheimer’s Disease.
Like many who choose health care as a profession, Semian saw a need for improved health care after his grandmother was placed in a sub-par facility years ago. It was then he quickly realized that small comforts can often make a big difference.
“I just remember her complaining that she couldn’t get stewed tomatoes with her mac and cheese, which she loved,” Semian said. “So, the next time I visited, I brought some stewed tomatoes for her meal. It was a small gesture, but it made a world of difference for her.”
Oakwood Terrace Now Accepting Residents
Currently Oakwood Terrace is at about 60 percent capacity and can accommodate new admissions. Semian said Oakwood Terrace presently has 33 residents occupying the community’s 58 beds. There are private and semi-private rooms available. Private rooms provide more space, but semi-private rooms are more economical.
To learn more about Oakwood Terrace or to tour the property, call the community at (570) 451-3171. Oakwood Terrace is located at 400 Gleason Drive in Moosic. Moosic is a quiet, picturesque town just outside of Scranton. The state-of-the-art gated community provides safety, security, and peace of mind for residents and their families.
Oakwood Terrace offers private and companion apartments with cable TV, free Wi-Fi, fire and smoke detection and suppression systems, security cameras and an emergency call system. All utilities except for long distance calling are included.
At Oakwood Terrace, residents receive three restaurant-style meals served daily.
Daily life at Oakwood Terrace allows residents to enjoy a home and family-like setting where good neighbors become good friends, Semian said. Residents enjoy interacting socially as well as participating in daily activities with proper safety measures and social distancing.
About Premier Senior Living, LLC
Premier Senior Living, LLC, is a senior housing owner and operator with headquarters in New York City. The privately owned company began with a single personal care community in New York. Today, Premier and its affiliated companies provide a spectrum of senior housing services including independent living, assisted living, and dementia/memory care.
PSL has been successful in acquiring both high-end stabilized properties as well as troubled properties, improving their operations and creating value. Premier operates in markets with extremely favorable demographic trends and a preference for seniors to either age-in-place or come back home via a reverse migration.