December 22

To Move or Not to Move into Assisted Living During COVID-19

By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions

For older adults who need some help to maintain their independence, moving into an assisted living community during COVID-19 can make great sense. Here are some of the reasons why:

Absent a move, will the older adult be getting the help and assistance needed? Poor nutrition or not taking medications as prescribed by the older adult’s physician can have significant health consequences.

Who will be providing the older adult with needed help and assistance and how often? Home health care or family caregivers are often only available for a few hours a day.

In the assisted living communities Gardant operates, certified staff is on duty 24-hours a day, seven days a week to assist residents with their scheduled and their unscheduled needs. Staff monitors residents daily and become familiar with a resident’s baseline condition, looks, habits, and routines. They often will identify changes that may indicate a potential illness or medical problem and can help residents take steps early on to address the issue.

If home health care is providing assistance, how often are the caregivers tested for the coronavirus? 

At Gardant-managed communities, the safety of residents is our #1 Priority. We have been and will continue to be highly proactive in taking measures to protect residents and staff. This includes enhanced procedures for cleaning and disinfecting; purchasing Personal Protection Equipment; and adding staff. We monitor and follow the latest CDC, state and local directives and guidelines. Staff is monitored for signs and symptoms of COVID daily prior to the beginning of their shift and are tested according to the individual state requirements. The wearing of masks is required, and other Personal Protection Equipment is on hand and used as needed.

Are family members doing the shopping, cooking, housekeeping, and laundry? Are family members providing assistance with medications, bathing, dressing, and grooming? What if assistance is needed with personal care, such as toileting?   getting on and off a toilet or in and out of bed or a chair?   Are family members taking the required infection control precautions during personal care including the wearing of personal protective equipment, frequent hand washing, etc.?     Are family caregivers screened for signs and symptoms of COVID, including temperature being taken, and review of potential symptoms? There certainly is the possibility of an older adult getting COVID-19 from a family member who is handling these tasks. In addition, for families who may be struggling with the stress of handling the pressures of home, work, and possibly home-schooling responsibilities, taking on the added responsibilities of assisting an older adult loved one can significantly worsen an already high stress level. And, what happens if a family member tests positive for COVID-19 and the whole family needs to self-quarantine?

In addition to the help and assistance that is available at Gardant-managed communities from the staff on duty 24/7, residents benefit from a variety of support services such as three daily meals, housekeeping, and laundry. The meals are freshly prepared on-site. Normally, meals are served restaurant-style in the community’s dining room. With COVID, staff delivers the freshly-prepared meals three times a day to residents in their apartments. If and when advisable, communities offer residents the opportunity to enjoy small-group dining.

As more and more research studies indicate that social isolation can lead to decline in cognitive health and to depression, what opportunities for social interaction are available for an older adult who is living alone or isolated for most of the day?

At Gardant-managed assisted living communities, the staffs have been very creative in finding ways to engage with residents and provide residents with opportunities to participate in safe social, recreational, educational and wellness activities while following physical distancing guidelines. Here are just a few examples:

The Dietary staff at a community treated residents to “cupcakes” for lunch. The staff shaped meatloaf into a cupcake, topped it with mashed potatoes as the frosting, and added a dollop of ketchup on top for the cherry.

The staff at another community donned costumes and treated residents to a socially-distanced Thanksgiving Day parade that included Santa, Mrs. Claus and elves.

When the Elf of a Shelf showed up at a community for his annual visit, the staff had the elf quarantine in a glass jar for 14 days.

A community has set up families and residents to socialize with each other through Cheer Chat window visits.

Staff members lead residents in socially-distanced hallway exercise programs and social activities, including bingo.

With the restrictions on visitors that have been needed, staff has helped residents engage virtually with family members using social media applications such as Facetime, Facebook Messenger, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams and through a CareMerge Family application.

There are two other factors that I think are important to mention. The first is that the architectural design of the assisted living communities Gardant operates is different than most nursing homes.

Residents of the communities live in a private apartment that features a kitchenette and spacious bathroom with shower. They are not obligated to share a room with another resident. They can enjoy living in a place they have furnished and decorated to their taste.

Secondly, the vaccination for the coronavirus will be offered to Assisted Living residents and healthcare professionals before the general public. Gardant-managed communities have taken the steps to register with the Pharmacy Partnership Program and with the CDC, CVS and Walgreens. When the vaccination is available, it will be administered on-site.

2 Comments

  • Phyllis Higgins says:

    I agree with every word of this. The staff is absolutely amazing. I am sure they are faced with far more than they bargained for when they hired on but they have stepped up to the plate in the most gracious way.
    They show they care for the physical well-being as well as the emotional well-being. I’m sure I could not protect my mother any better.

    • Megan Altmyer says:

      Thanks for those kind words, Phyllis. We appreciate that. All our staff work tirelessly with the residents’ best interest in mind. Their health and safety are our top priorities.

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