By Merritt Whitley, Editor
To better understand the benefits of senior living communities, and the specific health and wellness guidelines in place to help keep residents safe, we talked to Mary Pat Taylor, activities director at Riverstone Retirement Resort, an independent living community in Kansas City, Missouri.
Why is a senior living community a potentially preferred choice for elderly adults?
Unique amenities. Specialized services. Simplified daily living. Safety. These are just a few of the many reasons seniors and their families often prefer senior living options like assisted living and independent living. Whether eliminating stress related to transportation or figuring out what to make for dinner, the anxieties and physical demands of tasks like these are greatly reduced.
In today’s environment, perhaps the most significant of all is the often 24-hour presence of highly trained staff equipped to handle emergency situations like accidents and illness outbreaks in a moment’s notice. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regularly offers guidance to senior living communities on best practices in an emergency, a particular benefit as the coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads.
1. Safety and security in senior living communities
While most people struggle to find hand sanitizer or basic toiletry items at grocery stores and pharmacies, many senior living facilities are well-stocked with such items, and have no shortage of additional resources.
“A new resident’s daughter recently told me that she didn’t want her mother moving in because she’ll be around more people,” Taylor says. “But what she doesn’t realize is that we’re cleaning rigorously, limiting who enters the building, and we have all the sanitization materials we need.
“We have a big supply of food, toilet paper, medication, and other necessities for residents,” continues Taylor. “That’s something you can’t say about a lot of homes and hospitals right now. We can’t control everything 100%, but we’re working around the clock to protect and provide resources.”
Senior living communities are especially focused on preventing coronavirus from spreading. According to Taylor, prevention examples from Riverstone include:
- Monitoring deliveries – Amazon no longer delivers packages directly to residents’ doors. Instead, they are collected by a staff member at the front of the building.
- Increasing the use of hand sanitizer – More stations have been added throughout the building.
- Eliminating the use of side doors – Everyone must enter through the front of the building, check in, and use hand sanitizer before moving forward.
- Amplifying cleaning practices – Both staff and the cleaning crew thoroughly disinfect and wipe down the space daily.
2. Connection in a time of social distancing
With many people practicing social distancing and social isolation, it can be challenging to keep families connected with their elderly loved ones. If communities have the capability, Facetime and other video-related apps are great opportunities for face-to-face interaction. Many family members are even having conversations with their loved ones through their room window if outside visitors have been restricted from entering the building.
As an activities director, Taylor says she’s had to be a little more careful and creative in light of coronavirus developments. “It can be difficult to find activities that are both fun and safe,” she says. “Bingo has always been popular, but due to coronavirus, we’ve switched to disposable, paper cards,” she added. “I also disinfect the chips they use to cover the numbers after each session.”
3. Daily cleaning methods to help keep residents safe
Because the majority of deaths from coronavirus are among the elderly, it’s important to know why seniors are at risk and the actions that are being taken to help.
“One of the biggest things I’m currently helping with is sanitizing and wiping down everything around the building at least three times a day,” says Taylor. “Our regular cleaning crew also cleans daily.”
Another important way that senior living communities are staying on top of the outbreak is through education.
“All the doors have mandatory signs about how to wash your hands correctly and how to protect yourself from coronavirus,” Taylor added. “We’ve added more hand sanitizer stations throughout the building, and we’re practicing social distancing.”
4. Opportunities for activity and exercise despite shelter-in-place
There are few things better for overall health than exercise, and during a time of widespread infection and shelter-in-place protocols, it’s important that our elderly loved ones are at their best. Senior living communities offer a wealth of opportunities for entertainment and activity.
“We encourage exercise daily,” says Taylor. “But to avoid external visitors and any possibility of coming in contact with the coronavirus, we no longer have our instructor come in.
“Instead, we’re using a DVD series focused on strength and stretching exercises. Although television instruction is no substitute for a live instructor, the risk/reward benefit is worth it, and everyone really enjoys it. I’ve actually noticed more people in the community are exercising to stay busy,” says Taylor.
5. Less situational stress and strain, more focus on your relationship with your loved one
Some elderly adults become dependent on their grown children, or other close family members, for help. This is especially true right now, as so many people grapple with coronavirus-related guidance about staying home. Unnatural role reversals can strain relationships and can foster feelings of resentment, both by parents and their children. In senior living communities, younger family members are liberated from full-time caregiving roles and instead able to spend more meaningful, quality time with their older loved ones.
“When we’re able to see the family members of residents, they tell us how much they appreciate what we do for their loved ones,” Taylor says. “They can tell how much we care about them based on how we interact with them. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that we put the minds of families at ease. They know their loved ones are in good hands during these tough times.”
Senior living communities can be a beneficial option for your loved one
Information about coronavirus is changing rapidly, but senior living communities are dedicated to staying informed. If you believe these communities would benefit a loved one, our Senior Living Advisors can help you find the best, most affordable option quickly.
In light of the new protocols being put into place, please ask our advisors about how you can set up a virtual tour to explore a community of your choice. When you talk to a community staff member or take a virtual tour, be sure to reference our Assisted Living Residence Checklist.