While in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, families, and friends of loved ones living in assisted living communities have been forced to change their approach to visits. COVID-19 has had cases in all 50 states and those who are 60+ or have compromised immune systems have an increased risk of contracting the dangerous respiratory disease. From those findings, the CDC has given a COVID-19 checklist for assisted living and other long-term care communities to have a plan of response:
- Rapid identification and management of ill residents
- Protocols for visitors and other people coming into the facility
- Supplies and resources
- Occupational health considerations including sick leave
- Training and education for staff
- Surge capacity for staffing, supplies, and equipment
The federal and state governments have placed restrictions on visitors and communal activities in assisted living communities for the protection of the residents. Almost all senior living communities are closed to outside visitors. An administrator from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), stated, “Temporarily restricting visitors and nonessential workers will help reduce the risk of Coronavirus spread in nursing homes, keeping residents safe. The Trump Administration is working around the clock to ensure the continued safety of America’s health care system, particularly nursing homes.” The CMS has also announced new precautions to take with assisted living communities:
- Restricting all visitors, effective immediately, with exceptions for compassionate care, such as end-of-life situations
- Restricting all volunteers and nonessential health care personnel and other personnel
- Canceling all group activities and communal dining and implementing active screening of residents and health care personnel for fever and respiratory symptoms
Keeping in touch
These restrictions have made it difficult for families and friends with loved ones residing in assisted living communities. CMS and the CDC understand this struggle and have encouraged residents and their loved ones to stay connected through technology such as social media and virtual video chatting.
When the news is unfavorable, the struggle to stay optimistic and look for the positives can be extremely tough. However, many people have found creative ways to keep a smile, not only on their faces but others as well. Here are some highlights of important and uplifting moments in assisted living communities during this stressful time.
At the Cedar Pointe Health and Wellness Suites in Texas, a Great Dane named Tonka has been putting a smile on the faces of people currently isolated in the facility. Courtney Leigh, the owner, sat outside the windows with Tonka while the residents walked by and said hello. Leigh stated, “They were smiling from ear to ear. Some reached out to touch the window.”
Siblings of the France family, aging from 4-10 years old, have been spending their quarantine drawing pictures and writing positive notes to residents in nursing homes around Massachusetts. The mother of the family, Vanessa France, is a hospice care worker and told her children that the residents in these communities are nervous and sad to be away from their families and it is the least that they could do.
When a nursing home prevented Bob Shellard, 90, from visiting his wife Nancy, 88, who is a patient, he knew he needed to do something important for their wedding anniversary. He made a sign for his wife that had a heartfelt note, “I’ve loved you 67 years and I still do. Happy Anniversary.” When the special day came around, Shellard and his daughter stood outside and when Nancy noticed, she was gleaming with joy and happiness. She even told the staff that she felt like a queen.
The staff at many assisted living facilities have found ways to keep their residents entertained while staying safe. A facility in Louisiana still plays bingo every day at 1:00 p.m., but it is over the intercom. In Thomasville, Georgia, Camellia Gardens of Life Care received a donation and the residents decided to use that donation to buy a cotton candy machine! In Utah, residents at Life Care Center of Bountiful, went on a world-class virtual museum tour. While in Hawaii staff in long term facilities have been giving residents massages, brushing their hair, and painting their nails. Other activities that have been done are scavenger hunts, audiobooks, movie time, and pen pal programs.
This pandemic has brought medical staff, residents, families, friends, and assisted living communities even closer together.
LivingPath wants to express gratitude and well wishes to everyone who is contributing and making a difference to the residents and staff of assisted living across the nation!
For more information please read LivingPath’s COVID-19 Update.