Let’s be honest – this is a scary time in our lives as businesses shutter, unemployment rises, and a potentially fatal disease keeps us socially isolated. That fear is only magnified for people at risk and their families – especially seniors. With the news of the virus spreading through several nursing and retirement homes around the country, many families are seriously asking whether they should move away from senior living communities.
This can seem even more reasonable as senior communities enter quarantine-like periods, restricting residents’ movements and contact. There is a certain injustice that all of us naturally feel when facing these kinds of measures in our lives – a sentiment that extends to feeling like our loved ones are “locked down.”
The logical conclusion for many families is to consider moving a senior away from a community setting, and many are asking, “Is it riskier to move mom home, or riskier for her to stay?” It’s a decision that should only be made after carefully and thoroughly weighing both options.
Can you provide the personal care required?
Most residents at senior living communities, especially those in assisted living and memory care, receive some form of personal care. Before moving a loved one, review the current care they receive to ensure that it can continue to be provided in an alternate environment. If so, how is the person providing care being screened? Is the person providing care also responsible for tasks that would put them at a greater risk for contracting COVID-19 and passing it to the senior?
Have you considered providing for a typical day?
Nutrition and hydration are core needs for every senior. Are three balanced meals being made daily with a variety of snack options throughout the day? Who will be responsible for shopping, preparing, and cleaning? What measures are being taken to ensure the person who is shopping, preparing, and serving meals does not contract COVID-19?
Events / Relationships / Activity
What will a typical day consist of? Is there a range of activities that the senior can engage in? Do those events fulfill the social, emotional, and spiritual needs of the senior?
Who will handle the additional housekeeping and laundry?
How will you handle the senior needing medical care?
Will the senior continue to have access to licensed medical professionals? Are physicians’ offices closed or limiting patient access? Is there a plan in place for minor medical emergencies? If an emergency response or urgent care are necessary, will that outside contact put the senior at greater risk for contracting COVID-19?
Do you have enough supplies?
Are additional supplies available to accommodate the senior, especially hand sanitizer, antibacterial hand soap, toilet paper, and medications?
Is your home accessible for the senior?
Is the home senior-friendly or will they need to navigate stairs and obstacles? Will the senior be able to safely use the toilet and shower?
Do you have a plan for sanitizing and controlling exposure?
Does anyone where the senior is moving currently have COVID-19? If not, what are the exposure patterns of each individual and how are they being screened after potential exposure? If someone living with the senior were to contract COVID-19, are there containment measures in place to ensure they do not pass the virus to the senior?
Will the senior community accept the senior returning?
In the event the senior needs to move back before restrictions have been lifted, will the community accept them? If not, what happens?
From a senior living insider’s perspective, these and many more questions are being answered at senior living communities with the experience and intellect of medical professionals, legal departments, risk management, insurance professionals, and more. While it may emotionally feel right to hold your loved one as close as possible during a time of crisis, it may not be safe or practical when taking all of the variables and controls into consideration. And, while the measures taken at senior living communities may seem extreme, remember they are in place to keep our most vulnerable population as insulated as possible against contracting COVID-19.
The good news is nobody has to move for you to stay informed and connected throughout this pandemic.
Staying informed about the measures being taken at senior communities can help with understanding and peace of mind. When possible, join virtual town hall meetings to ask questions and voice concerns. Review the community website and social media pages. And keep the line of communication open between yourself, your loved one, and the community.
Just because you cannot physically be with a senior while communities restrict visitors doesn’t mean you cannot be active in other ways. Leverage technology – join in events virtually and continue to communicate with phone calls and facetime. Seniors living this experience will benefit from creative social solutions.
Every person and situation is different, and moving a loved one from their community may truly be the best option during this crisis. Just make sure, before taking drastic measures, that you are acting from a place of logic and preparation and not a place of guilt or fear.