The main partner of the Queen Silvia Nursing Award in Lithuania, new nursing home ‘Addere Care’ is nestled in the unique town of Trakai, where history and laky landscape blends into a harmonious whole. This city, surrounded by lakes and rich in castles and other picturesque heritage, is only 30 km away from the capital Vilnius. It is not only one of the most popular tourist destinations in Lithuania, but it is also a perfect location for nursing patients to settle, which, in confrontation with the COVID-19 outbreak, is so mattering nowadays. Please read an interview with Paulius Gradeckas, the infection control specialist and medical and quality manager of the ‘Addere Care’, to learn more.

Lithuania has not been the most affected country by the coronavirus in the region, on the contrary, it was one of the first countries to open the borders in summer 2020. What would you expect in the coming months/years?

We hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Senior care facilities in Lithuania were no exception to COVID-19 spread in comparison with Sweden or Poland or Germany. Some facilities have even been shut down for an indeterminate time. Though the overall number of cases never skyrocketed above 10 000. The current situation dictates that we have to be prepared for the worst and would be able to survive without external help from the government.

It so happened that ‘Addere Care’ is being set up precisely at the time of the coronavirus pandemic. Can you tell us about the impact this has had on the establishment of the nursing home?

More than 3.5 million Europeans living in senior care facilities represent only 0.5% of the total European population. In contrast, almost 50 % of all coronavirus related deaths in Europe took place there. Covid-19 hit hard both unprepared and prepared. A novel virus, fast-evolving situation was a constant challenge for those working in these facilities.

As here in the ‘Addere Care’ we are in the establishing phase, we have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to prepare for this situation as much as possible. No one is protected from the virus, but we will make every effort to reduce the chance of infection. The ‘Addere Care’ had this view from the beginning.

Lately we communicate with specialists and adapt our premises to new challenges. Our facilities have been renovated to indulge the premium needs of the infection control including a newly installed ventilation system that could work in several regimes while maintaining proper ventilation and indoor air quality for 7/24. Surplus air devices have been placed in isolation wards each floor that would limit the spread of airborne pathogens throughout a healthcare facility.

We originally divided the premises into nine sections to make our guests feel like they were in a cozy boutique nursing home. We have created social and leisure spaces where patients will be able to relax, socialize and use small kitchenettes for tea or other delicacies. Our residents will be able to spend a lot of time outdoors. We see the garden, spices and vegetable beds, pets too in order to give greater comfort to our guests.

The goal to ensure the safety of our guests and staff is as important as to provide our nursing services at the highest possible levels of quality. To this end, we particularly rely on Swedish nursing practices. This is the reason why our employees will attend training in Silviahemmet’s care philosophy in order to obtain Silviahemmet E+ Certification and why we plan to have professionals from Sweden at the middle management level.

Now we are also rethinking the work process to protect patients from infections by safely isolating them in the nursing home itself. We will follow strict hygiene rules, apply our knowledge and spaces, redesign them by installing additional rooms between the wards. Having literally one of the longest corridors in the region we managed to create ‘safety islands’ between each ward where basic control measures, i.e. temperature check, changing clothes, can be performed.

Now it is time to revise and adapt practices that have been shown essential in stopping the spread of Covid-19. And it cannot be done without the most dedicated employees – nursing personnel and their ideas and endeavors. A core of the knowledge will be disseminated among our staff as we have carefully reviewed existing procedures including hand washing, disinfection, protective personal equipment use and many other measures.    

The first lockdown taught us that relatives are the ones who could suffer even more than patients. And we thought about a solution that could be as simple as a communication line that will be established among patient relatives and personnel. While this sounds like an elementary solution, it was the lack of communication that the frequent relative faced in recent circumstances. During this challenging time, we are committed to helping residents stay connected with their families and loved ones.

When establishing the nursing home, you are having lots of work and still, you have taken the responsibility to organize the Queen Silvia Nursing Award in Lithuania.

Our entire team believes that the opportunity to bring the award to Lithuania is not only a responsibility but also a great honor. There are up to 25 thousand nurses in Lithuania. This is the largest group of medical professionals in the country. Unfortunately, we are still experiencing a shortage of nurses that will be especially felt in the future.

We believe that the award supports the creativity of the nurses and encourages future students to choose this profession. We have so many great specialists now, and we look forward to raising the next generation with the same values, compassion and competence.

Moreover, each of us need innovative nursing services and health care ideas that can be provided by the nurses working at the forefront of all this. Especially, in the presence of COVID-19. Therefore, the whole Lithuania will benefit from the Queen Silvia Nursing Award. As ‘Addere Care’ is still being established, we are very excited to hear the ideas of nurses and nursing students, and hope to set an example by turning them into reality. Gabriel García Márquez wrote that ‘Humanity, like armies in the field, advances at the speed of the slowest’. Why not use all the great ideas to meet the challenges of coronavirus so that as humanity we would be as fast as possible?