The COVID-19 pandemic sparked a lot of change in long-term care facilities — and a lot of those changes were apparent in the lobby area, as receptionists and front desk staff began to check visitors for symptoms of illness and collect waivers about COVID-19 risk factors.
As we begin to move beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, though, many long-term care facility directors may be wondering how they can permanently redesign their facility lobbies to maximize safety for their residents, staff, and visitors — both from contagious diseases and from other threats to their health.
Here are design features that can maximize safety in long-term care facility lobbies.
Measures to discourage slips and falls
As we wrote in our post on 4 Access Control Strategies That Minimize Risk at Long-Term Care Facilities, residents shouldn’t have access to any area of the facility where they could face an increased risk of falling — and those that they can access should be free of potential obstacles or hazards.
The lobby area can present pronounced slip and fall risks due to the fact that as the highest trafficked area on the facility, visitors often track in water when it’s raining — and wet and slippery floors can be extremely dangerous — especially for people with physical and cognitive limitations.
However, slip and falls are a possibility for all visitors and residents, so it’s a good idea to design the lobby in such a way that minimizes this risk.
Here’s how to design your lobby so that floors stay dry, even in wet weather:
- Add space for umbrella storage bins or plastic bags near the entry so that umbrellas don’t drip on the floor as they’re carried in
- Add plenty of space for absorbent mats designed to collect water
- Construct an awning over the outside of the main entrance to prevent puddles from forming immediately outside of the door and rain from blowing in as the door opens
A clear delineation between lobby and interior to encourage sign in
Visitor sign-in is especially important for long-term care facilities. If people don’t check in, they are more likely to violate the visitor policies put in place to keep residents safe (for example, following COVID-19 best practices that are explained before check-in). If visitors don’t check-in consistently, there also won’t be accurate records of who came and when, and those records can be extremely important in the case of emergency evacuations and contact tracing efforts.
One way to discourage visitors from skipping sign-in is to make sure that unauthorized entrances remain locked and monitored. (This is also a good practice for preventing patient elopement.)
But you can also design the lobby to give visitors a sense that they can’t simply wander beyond the official check-in station without official permission.
You can do this by situating the front desk and visitor seating so that there’s a clear delineation between the semi-public area of the lobby and the private area beyond the lobby.
Some tactics include:
- arranging plants, furniture, and other interior design fixtures (such as art or water features) to make it more complicated to pass by the sign-in desk
- situating the front desk so that it’s nearly impossible for someone to wander past the front desk staff without being noticed
- adding few signs specifying the need for visitors to sign in before they pass a certain point
Better air quality for better disease control
Studies have found that the rate at which fresh air moves through your space can be a huge factor in the likelihood of COVID-19 being passed from one person to another.
For example, if two people are talking in a room with little air movement, the droplets are more likely to hang there and be inhaled by others. But if the air is moving around them, the droplets may blow in another direction and fall safely to the ground before they can be inhaled.
Apparently, although coronavirus can technically survive for at least three hours in aerosolized form, it tends to only hang in the air up to 14 minutes in most indoor settings. Other factors may affect this, such as the moisture level in the room.
For that reason, any modern design for a long-term care facility should take air flow and air quality into account.
For example, you can install a HEPA filter on your general HVAC system (HEPA filters have been proven to trap particles even smaller than SARS-CoV2), or invest in portable air purifiers with HEPA filters for the lobby area. Before you invest in an air purification system, make sure you understand the capacity of each machine, including how much square footage it can cover and how quickly it can clean the air.
You can also look into commercial humidifiers, which can also be installed by a professional in an HVAC system. If you look into a portable humidifier, make sure it’s designed to work for the exact square footage of your lobby. Air with the ideal moisture content can prevent germs, but it can also make your visitors and residents more comfortable.
Easy access for emergency personnel
Because the residents of long-term care facilities are often in a state of fragile health, it’s crucial that lobbies are designed with the ease of emergency personnel in mind.
Local building regulations will specify what you need to do to make it easy for emergency vehicles to access and leave your property quickly.
However, as you design your lobby, you should also look to industry best practices and regulations that can make it easy for emergency personnel to transport patients in and out of the facility on stretchers or wheelchairs.
In the lobby, this generally means investing in automatic doors that open wide enough for a stretcher to pass through, and making the path to the door wide, flat, and free of obstacles.
In many cases, these requirements overlap with ADA requirements, which are also crucial for long-term care facilities.
Space for a sign-in kiosk
If you’re still tracking visitors with an old-fashioned pen and paper system, it’s time to upgrade.
Modern lobbies in long-term care facilities all should include a digital sign-in kiosk, which allow visitors to sign in with their own smartphones completely contactlessly — reducing the chance of possible disease transmission in the lobby area.
Having a kiosk at the front desk of your long-term care facility also allows visitors to check themselves in, which can be helpful if the receptionist has stepped away or is busy with another task.
Plus, collecting visitor records digitally means that the records will be more accurate, more legible, and more secure than if they were on paper. Qualified administrators can even access the visitor records remotely, which can be important in the case of evacuations or if they’re working on data analysis from home.If you’re still tracking visitors with an old-fashioned pen and paper system, it’s time to upgrade. Click To Tweet
If you’re ready to invest in a digital system, The Receptionist for iPad is an industry leader and enjoys top reviews on Capterra and G2. If you want to learn more about how The Receptionist could work for your long-term care facility, check out our industry page or request a custom demo here.
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