As a senior living professional, I have been getting a lot of questions lately about whether it is safe to move an elderly relative into supportive communal living in the middle of a pandemic.
My answer is unequivocally Yes! Even before the good news that the CDC and states prioritized assisted living residents and staff to be in the first group to be vaccinated, I have been urging families to consider making the move.
An assisted living community offers a safe alternative to living at home alone, isolated and lonely. Research has shown that prolonged loneliness is more dangerous to your health than lack of physical activity, obesity, or smoking 15 cigarettes a day. On the flip side, the wide-ranging benefits for seniors of interacting with people daily, having a social life, and being engaged in meaningful activities have been well documented.
Seniors who have recently toured our assisted living communities in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire were thrilled that we had resumed daily programs and restaurant style dining – they had no idea! Their families were mostly concerned with safety; their primary question being, “Are people in retirement communities more at risk of contracting the coronavirus disease?” While the answer to that question was “yes” for many senior communities across the country in the Spring 2020 at the start of the pandemic, thankfully for our communities, the answer now is “No”.
Here are answers to other commonly asked questions related to Covid and senior living:
- Yes, our senior living communities are safe, secure and highly controlled environments. We have strict assisted living covid protocols and guidelines to keep residents, staff and visitors safe, including sanitizing, screening and testing. We are prepared for any potential Covid-19 cases.
- Yes, we remain vibrant communities. Everything you need is right in our buildings. Friends, support services, gourmet dining, fitness classes, social groups, religious services, fun activities and entertainment, salon services, and your morning cup of coffee are always just a few steps away.
- Yes, we have numerous innovative and meaningful daily events for fitness, recreation, socializing and entertainment. Many seniors make the move to assisted living for support, companionship, and recreational opportunities that aren’t available to them living at home alone, this year more than ever. It has certainly been a challenge to safely plan some of the events we took for granted before the pandemic, but we are managing it with clever scheduling, appropriate physical distancing, and the enthusiastic assistance of our wonderful residents. Creative small group programming allows for safe engagement, and we offer unique and interactive virtual programming.
- Yes, we have resumed restaurant style-dining. Enjoying meals with others is an important part of living in a community. In order to maintain physical distance, we have limited capacity in our dining rooms and offer several seatings at each meal. We also continue to follow all state guidelines, cleaning and disinfecting all tables, chairs, and surfaces between seatings.
- Yes, we have systems in place to ensure sufficient, clean air flow. Filters are changed regularly on our HVAC systems, and vacuums have HEPA filters. We also have ERE makeup air systems, which takes fresh air from outside and brings it inside the building to ensure proper air circulation.
- Yes, we continue to adhere to stringent deep cleaning and disinfection regimens throughout every one of our buildings and our staff are fully trained in universal infection control practices.
- Yes, we are accepting new residents. We are committed to ensuring a smooth transition into our communities with clear move-in guidelines and generous family visiting protocols. We also offer short-term stays for those who might want to move back home when things return to normal after the vaccine is widely available.
Making the move to a senior community can present challenges at any time, even more so now due to heightened anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic. But, during this past year it has also been a real comfort for many families who have loved ones living in our communities knowing their Mom or Dad is in a supportive and social environment being well cared for by our competent staff.
Assisted living may be just the right place for your loved one, despite your fears about communal living, especially if you are seeing your elderly relative struggling, not just with the typical loneliness or depression related to Covid, but with the physical or cognitive decline that often accompanies prolonged isolation.