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IRC Blog

IRC Blog
Posted: Tuesday, July 13, 2021
By: IRC Blog

How COVID-19 Made Senior Living Communities the Safest Places to Be

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a trying time for everyone but senior living communities have been especially hard hit. Just as most types of businesses had to find new and safer ways to operate, senior living had to do it almost instantly to ensure the safety of their vulnerable residents.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a trying time for everyone but senior living communities have been especially hard hit. Just as most types of businesses had to find new and safer ways to operate, senior living had to do it almost instantly to ensure the safety of their vulnerable residents.

Looking back now, the senior living industry has made it through the worst of it and is better prepared than ever before to provide one of the safest places for seniors to live. Here’s an overview of why senior living is better than ever.

Setting the record straight

Although senior living was singled out early on as unsafe by the media, the truth is the majority of senior communities were able to keep COVID-19 at bay thanks to fast and professional attention first to common sense protocols, and when available, to guidance from health agencies and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

In fact, a new research study, conducted by the non-partisan research group NORC at the University of Chicago and funded by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, titled “The Impact of COVID-19 on Seniors Housing,” sets the record straight.

According to the study:

  • 51% of senior housing properties experienced no COVID-19 deaths
  • 67% of independent living communities experienced no COVID-19 deaths
  • 64% of assisted living communities experienced no COVID-19 deaths
  • 61% of memory care communities experienced no COVID-19 deaths
  • 39% of skilled nursing facilities experienced no COVID-19 deaths

Obviously, the most vulnerable seniors - those with pre-existing health conditions living in skilled nursing facilities - were most at risk, similar to people with the same health concerns living outside of senior communities. In fact, according to the CDC, overall, most people who died of COVID-19 had pre-existing medical conditions, with just 6% listing COVID-19 as the only cause of death.

The study, which examined the senior populations in 113 counties across five U.S. states — Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, and Pennsylvania — in different types of senior communities and in the surrounding counties, also found that seniors in independent living communities were actually safer than other seniors living in the same counties.

“Resident deaths in independent living settings were statistically comparable to the rates of death for older adults living in non-congregate settings in the same geographic area. Independent living had average adjusted mortality rates of 5.9 per 1,000 compared to 6.7 per 1,000 found for adults 75 and older living in the same counties.”

Experience is the best teacher

Now that COVID is coming under control, the senior living industry can move forward knowing what works best to protect residents and staff. Vaccinations are key, but to be prepared for the future, senior living communities now have an arsenal of ways to make life safe and healthy during a similar health crisis, including:

  • Well-researched and effective health and safety protocols <link to community’s COVID protocols> covering everything from wearing personal protective equipment to disinfection to visitation, testing, isolation, and much more
  • New tools from the CDC on how and where to purchase certified PPE, how to optimize PPE when there is a shortage, and how to calculate how much to purchase to meet future needs for masks, respirators, gloves, eye protection and gowns to avoid shortages
  • Continuing to provide programs and classes to help seniors of all abilities get healthy and stay that way to avoid health problems that make them more vulnerable to viruses like COVID-19
  • Reexamining indoor spaces to better enable required social distancing and safe resumption of daily routines
  • Following specific CDC guidance for seniors in memory care who are especially challenged by the protocols like wearing masks and social distancing, and may even become fearful and anxious because of the disruption of their daily routines

Creative care under pressure

One of the greatest assets of senior living communities proved to be the flexibility of staff who suddenly had to go the extra mile, not occasionally, but routinely. Day in and day out caregivers were faced with isolated residents who through no fault of their own had to get through each day without family visits, without communal meals, and without the option to leave and return.

That left it up to staff to find new and creative ways to not only care for, but entertain residents with a range of mobility, cognitive and other limitations. They rose to it in a deeply committed fashion, knowing that without them residents had no one to help them through the crisis. And they did it while managing disrupted homes and families of their own.

Among the many creative solutions staff found were drive-by family parades so residents could see loved ones from their windows, virtual fundraisers to purchase tablets and other devices to help keep residents connected, personal entertainment options like books and puzzles, and socially distanced hallway games to participate in safely. It was a challenge, but it was met and overcome.

Thanks to their spirit of caring and resilience, senior living communities are now better positioned than ever to keep residents and staff safe during a health crisis like COVID-19. At Ingleside of Rock Creek, we stand ready to meet and exceed expectations no matter the challenge.  Please visit ourwebsite for more information. Call (202) 846-2651 if you have any questions or would like to schedule a personalized tour today.



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