Should You Take Your Loved One Out of Assisted Living During COVID-19?
The age of COVID-19 is an uncertain time for everyone. We are all navigating these uncharted waters, and families with loved ones in assisted living are particularly concerned as this population is vulnerable. A lot of people with elderly family members in assisted living are asking themselves the same question: Should I bring them home?
Every family must do what feels right to them and weigh the risks against the benefits. With this decision, comes even more questions that must be answered openly and honestly:
Can you reasonably reduce exposure in your home environment?
Do you have the emotional and physical strength to directly tackle this?
Can you give your family member all the attention they require and deserve at home?
Can you deal reliably with their medical needs?
Is the change to their accustomed lifestyle, worth the disruption?
If you’re unsure about the answers to any of these questions, it’s prudent to take some time to understand what really constitutes safe seniors living in the age of COVID-19, and what assisted living communities are doing to keep residents safe.
Can any assisted living community really keep residents safe?
With so much unfavorable press during the early days of the pandemic, many people simply decided that all senior communities were risky environments. But as our understanding of disease transmission evolved, so did our ability to respond.
A good example of what responsible senior communities are doing to balance quality of life with virus safety is the initiative in place at UMC called “United for Safety” This plan prioritizes the safety and well-being of every resident with specific, quantifiable actions that allow a balance between our desire to increase residents’ socialization and keeping them safe.
Key changes to safety protocols outlined in the initiative have been in place for some time now and continue to be adjusted based on the best science available from experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the CDC, and the New Jersey Department of Health. Inside our communities the following protocols are in place:
- Partnering with the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology
- Using Environmental Protection Agency certified products that kill 99.9% of bacteria
- Utilizing portable negative air pressure machines
- Sanitizing with UV light equipment
- Increasing cleaning and disinfecting of all common area with attention to high-touch surfaces
- Testing and monitoring residents and associates, and screening visitors
- Mandating handwashing and strategically placing hand sanitizer stations
- Requiring physical distancing and a period of quarantine when needed
- Wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as needed
- Requiring 100% use of masks in all UMC common areas
UMC reacted early and quickly to the outbreak and has observed long-established infection control protocols well before the virus hit our area. In fairness, many senior care communities took aggressive steps to prevent the introduction and spread of the virus.
As a concerned individual, you need to evaluate the care and caution your loved one is receiving and remember, that although some assisted living facilities were impacted in the initial outbreak, they acted responsibly and remains vigilant. To learn more about UMC’s “The Road Forward” plan in the time of COVID-19, click here.
Will residents simply be confined to their apartments until the virus is over?
Absolutely not. While residents entering or reentering the community are required to obey an initial 14-day quarantine, for all other residents the level of available socialization options and contact is entirely dictated by specific conditions in our communities. As of this time, no otherwise healthy residents are confined to their apartments.
Understanding the challenges of quarantine and its dramatic effect on the senior quality of life, UMC associates have increased the use of technology for virtual communication by providing an iPad or tablet for each resident. Seniors who never thought they’d use a computer, now have experience with multiple video chat platforms like Zoom, Skype and Facetime!
When you can’t be face-to-face with your loved ones, video communication yields a good option for keeping in contact. Scheduling a daily call with a family member is a great way to ease their stress, keep current with the latest news, and enjoy each other’s company safely.
While these digital substitutes aren’t as comforting as a hug perhaps, most seniors have found them a satisfying substitute for staying in touch. This is coupled with other heroic efforts by staff to provide outdoor visitation and manage socially distanced interaction and entertainment. As conditions allow, seniors at UMC remain socially active and well attended to, despite virus challenges.
Should I stay or should I go?
Folks who had a knee-jerk reaction to widespread media coverage of early assisted living community outbreaks owe it to themselves to take a more considered approach now that New Jersey cases have stabilized. For most seniors, the decision to move into an assisted living community should not be undone lightly, and living in, or moving into a community during COVID-19 should continue to be based on whether that community is safe, has a robust plan for the new normal, and can properly provide the care and safe socialization that made your family consider assisted living in the first place.
To learn more about UMC’s UNITEDforSAFETY initiative at UMC Collingswood in Camden County, or any of our other assisted living communities across New Jersey, please contact United Methodist Communities and book your virtual visit today.