On Dec 1st the CDC recommended that residents and staff of long-term care facilities (which includes Assisted Living) be included in the first group to receive the coronavirus vaccine. Things are now moving rapidly.
Through an arrangement with CVS Health/Omnicare, the vaccine will be administered in clinics conducted in our communities in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut starting as early as mid-December, possibly into early January. We very much look forward to the physical protection the CDC has said that the vaccines will afford our residents and associates, and the peace of mind it will bring to their families and all of us at Senior Living Residences.
With this vaccine, the residents of our 17 Assisted Living communities can rest more easily knowing they are living in the VERY safest of places for the foreseeable future. We will continue to follow all public health directives concerning social distancing and mask wearing, as well as our own robust safety protocols, including screening, testing and sanitizing until it is absolutely safe to discontinue these measures.
While the CDC has recommended that older adults be included in the 2nd phase of the vaccination program, for New England’s elderly population, who are living at home alone, that may be months away. (In MA it is scheduled for February – April). In the meantime, while they wait for access to the vaccine next year, they will continue to be at far greater risk than seniors living in our communities, not just physically, but concerning their emotional and mental health.
Why is this? We all know firsthand the toll this virus has had, and multiple studies have been done this year on rising rates of depression and anxiety. For the elderly living alone, one of the worst impacts of Covid is loneliness.
Long before Covid, research documented prolonged loneliness as a higher risk factor of premature death than lack of physical activity or obesity, just as dangerous to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. On the flip side, research has also documented the wide-ranging benefits of interacting with people daily, having a social life, and being engaged in meaningful activities. In fact, socialization has been found to be one of the most effective “treatments” for someone with dementia.
Families need to know they have options if they are seeing their elderly relatives struggling, not just with loneliness but with the physical or cognitive decline that often accompanies prolonged isolation. An Assisted Living community can be a lot safer for these elders, especially when the alternative leaves them isolated at home alone day after lonely day, or for those who are receiving personal care or other services from a revolving door of private duty caretakers who may be visiting multiple clients and households without proper precautions against Covid.
The seniors living in Assisted Living communities right now are getting out of their apartments, attending lectures and entertainment, going to fitness classes, and having meals in the dining room. Yes, they are adhering to mask wearing, physical distancing and hand washing guidelines, but that hasn’t stopped them from socializing. Throughout this pandemic, we have focused not just on safety but on maintaining the vibrancy of communal life for our residents.
I understand the concerns families have had about living in a communal setting, but now is a really good time for seniors and their families to think about making a move to Assisted Living during these uncertain times.
This blog provides more information about Covid and Assisted Living: Is Now the Time to Make a Move?