The decision to move an elderly loved one into an assisted living or memory care community is always complex, but families of aging adults in need of care during the coronavirus pandemic are faced with unique questions: Is moving even worth the stress? What will the transition be like?
With expanded COVID-19 vaccine availability — and encouraging results — throughout the U.S., the move-in process at many communities now feels a little more like normal.
“We thrive on providing engaging and social environments for our residents, which is why we are thrilled that vaccination rates are climbing and COVID cases in our market areas are declining,” says Christy Van Der Westhuizen, vice president of sales and marketing at MBK Senior Living. “Fully vaccinated residents who have not had recent exposure to COVID-19 may move into an MBK community without quarantining.”
However, safeguards remain in place to help minimize COVID-19-related health risks among senior living populations. Learn what you and your family should expect before, during, and after the move, plus how communities make new members feel welcome as things return to normal.
With COVID-19 guidelines loosening and more of the country reopening, many communities have vacancies they’re trying to fill — while still following extra safety precautions.
“Fully vaccinated people are the most protected, which is why we highly encourage it for the health and safety of our residents and team members,” says Van Der Westhuizen. “Before move-in, all new residents are tested following state and county guidelines. If they are not fully vaccinated, residents are quarantined until a negative result is confirmed.”
Preparation is always useful in a move, especially during the pandemic. If you’re helping a loved one move into senior living, be sure to:
Proper planning can make moving your loved one into senior living simpler and safer. Here are 11 specific questions to ask if you’re moving a senior loved one during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even as vaccine rates increase, many senior living providers have retained streamlined move-in processes to be as quick and efficient as possible while still adhering to sensible safety protocols for senior living. Move-in guidelines may still include:
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Staff help new residents clean, unpack, and settle in. Then, depending on their vaccination status, new residents may still have to self-quarantine based on the community’s requirements. Though protocols differ by location and company, many communities take steps to increase resident safety, such as:
“Keeping our communities clean and safe has always been a priority, but during the pandemic, we upped our game,” says Van Der Westhuizen. “We added electrostatic disinfectant foggers, hand-washing stations, and hand-sanitizer dispensers throughout the community. During the height of the pandemic, we also had additional layers of safety for residents and team members, including quarantining, wearing full PPE, and streamlining services with virtual or in-residence options to encourage social distancing.”
While enhanced safety protocols help ensure a safe transition, many seniors worry about the social aspect of making the move into a community. Adjusting to senior living is different without a greeting committee of residents and the opportunity to meet new friends over dinner. But that doesn’t mean elderly loved ones won’t feel welcome.
“The staff learns interests and preferences to tailor experiences,” says Michael Bardelmeier, senior vice president of operations at MBK Senior Living. Based on those interests, the community sets up socially distanced or virtual small groups to welcome seniors. Residents are cared for and entertained, even during a potential self-quarantine period:
People with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia need extra help remembering important hygiene practices, such as hand washing. They may also not understand the need for a mask and could become agitated if a community still maintains strict rules. Because of this, memory care communities require unique precautions during and after move-in, according to Van Der Westhuizen:
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. CMS Updates Nursing Home Guidance with Revised Visitation Recommendations.
American Health Care Association, National Center for Assisted Living. COVID Cases In U.S. Nursing Homes.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Spread in Nursing Homes.
Department of Health and Human Services. Nursing Home Visitation – COVID-19 (REVISED).