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Westminster At Lake Ridge Blog

WLR Blog
Posted: Tuesday, July 13, 2021

How Safe is Senior Living During COVID-19? Safer than You Might Think!

One of the top reasons for moving to a senior living community is safety. But the onset of COVID-19 and accompanying media reports of outbreaks in senior living communities cast a shadow over plans for many who planned to move to a senior community. As we are slowly released from the grip of the global pandemic and the dust settles, it’s time to take a closer look at senior living from a new perspective. Here’s a post-COVID look at senior living.

Senior living during COVID-19: The results are in

Despite the media stories about COVID-19 outbreaks in senior living communities, it took a while to actually get the facts. In a recent study titled “The Impact of COVID-19 on Seniors Housing”, by the nonpartisan research group NORC at the University of Chicago and funded by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, researchers meticulously assembled those facts, including:

  • 51% of all senior housing properties experienced no COVID-19 deaths at all during 2020
  • The rate of COVID-19 deaths in independent living communities was comparable to that of their surrounding counties
  • 67% of independent living communities, 64% of assisted living communities, and 61% of memory care communities experienced no COVID-19 deaths (approximately two-thirds of each sector overall)

Not surprisingly, the report also notes that the more fragile residents, such as those in skilled nursing, were the most vulnerable to the virus, with that sector seeing no COVID-19 deaths in 39% of communities.

Best practices are now habits

Going forward, as more people are vaccinated and transmission slows, senior living communities can look to a future where they are now prepared to quickly defend against even an insidious foe like COVID-19. Although the industry has long taken infection control measures and maintained hygienic practices, the onslaught of COVID-19 was such that normal precautions were no longer good enough.

As a result, senior living communities now know how and when to take extraordinary measures like those taken early in the pandemic and expanded as more was known about COVID-19 transmission. This includes having a supply of personal protective equipment purchased from reputable and vetted sources, that includes:

  • N95 masks
  • KN95 respirators
  • Respirator test kits
  • Gloves
  • Gowns

Also essential are other infection control measures, that exceed just wiping down surfaces, but could include any or all of the following:

  • Vaccinations
  • Wearing masks (for those who can safely)
  • Social distancing
  • Handwashing
  • Isolating residents with symptoms
  • Testing
  •  Ventilation changes
  • Limiting visitation as needed

Senior living communities now have preparedness plans based not on conjecture, but on the reality of just how fast a virus like COVID-19 can spread around the world, and around communities like theirs. They know what works best for different types of residents (i.e., independent, assisted and memory care) and can anticipate needs and solutions before they arise.

Now that the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention is slowly and cautiously lifting restrictions on senior living communities who are fully vaccinated, the process is proceeding and providing a picture of how to safely end all restrictions in the future. In short, senior living communities now know the drill from scary rumors to reality when it comes to pandemic response procedures and are ready to institute emergency plans in an instant with confidence and professionalism.

Upside to the COVID-19 experience

For many seniors, COVID-19 has had a positive influence in some interesting ways. One of the most evident is the increase in senior’s use of technology, which helped get many seniors through the darkest days. Seniors were able to stay connected with health care providers via telemedicine appointments, join Zoom meetings with family and friends, and use tablets and smartphones to stay in touch, visit websites, share on social media, learn new things, and entertain themselves.

For residents of senior communities, having staff available 24/7 to help them learn to use a variety of devices was a huge asset when it came to keeping them safer and happier. In the event of another health crisis, those in senior living communities will know they may be physically separated, but will still be able to see and talk with loved ones. The article, “The ‘New Normal’ for Many Older Adults Is on the Internet,” looks at how this interconnectivity helped seniors stave off loneliness and the emotional stress imposed by the pandemic and gain the gratification of mastering the internet!

It’s long been said that experience is the best teacher, and today’s senior living communities are very well positioned to maintain safe and healthy environments even during such deadly infections as COVID-19. Please visit our website for more information or call (703) 420-7105 if you have any questions or would like to schedule a personalized tour today.

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