Retirement Communities

11/10/2020 | By Seniors Guide Staff

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, many older adults continue to consider moving into retirement communities – and for good reasons. Retirement communities are an excellent option for seniors since most offer superior safety and quality of life that is preferable to living alone at home.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has altered the facilities’ visitation policies to protect both residents and staff. And that also pertains to visits from prospective residents. As the need to move into assisted living continues, those hoping to join a community (and the loved ones who are helping them) must decide based on website information, virtual tours, and phone calls.

Following is a list of questions regarding COVID precautions in retirement communities. Addressing the virus specifically, ensure that the community is taking the correct precautions to avoid the spread.

What are the cleaning and disinfecting practices? Do they seem sufficient?

You need to ask this question because infectious diseases pose a more substantial threat to senior living facilities residents. To stay ahead of COVID-19, retirement communities should be able to report a detailed cleaning plan, which outlines methods and frequency.

Effectively removing pathogens requires a two-step approach. First, a thorough cleaning that zeroes in on removing surface contaminants with cleaning solution and elbow grease. Second, applying a disinfectant and leaving it on long enough to kill any pathogens remaining on a surface.

Is rapid result COVID-19 testing available?

Testing is essential since some people have COVID-19 without showing any symptoms. Rapid testing is advantageous because receiving faster results means the facility knows sooner whether a client should be isolated. So, an increase in rapid testing could help stop the virus’s spread within a retirement facility.

There have been developments in the rapid tests that can detect active infections. But these rapid antigen tests are less accurate than the standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, although antigen tests are cheaper and quicker to run. Ask the facility which tests they are currently using.

How are staff screened, and how often?

In the past, regulatory agencies recommended that the staff at nursing homes get tested. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) now requires retirement homes to test their team for COVID-19, with stiff fines and other penalties for noncompliance.

CMS bases recommendations for the frequency of staff testing on the level of COVID-19 spread throughout the community. Guidelines that indicate whether a facility is at increased risk for the coronavirus will determine the screenings’ frequency.

Is a primary care physician available onsite or via telehealth?

Many nursing homes employ or contract with doctors or medical groups to provide their patients’ healthcare. These doctors make regular visits to the nursing home to treat and evaluate the residents. They then meet with the patient, staff, and family to discuss health status, treatments, and medications.

These physician visits were required to be in-person before COVID-19. However, CMS issued a waiver allowing physicians to conduct visits to nursing home residents via telehealth or other virtual communications platforms.

Are there safe, socially distant activities available to residents?

Keeping residents connected and safe is vital to their mental and physical well-being. But it’s still important to take COVID precautions in retirement communities during social times.

Here are some of the activities that provide engagement and social distancing. Make sure that the retirement community is offering at least some of these:

  • Movie nights in the safety of the individual apartments
  • Outdoor exercise classes
  • Socially-distanced bingo
  • Online educational programs
  • Video visits
  • Socially-distanced crafting
  • Online clubs with video meetings

Is dining safe and socially distant?

Senior living providers have had to re-think their dining protocol and make drastic changes. Mealtimes brought residents together and allowed them to socialize. Now, these same senior living communities have been forced to transition from managing crowded dining rooms to delivering meals to individual rooms. Some facilities have kept the communal setting and implemented social distancing within it. It’s best to check to ensure that you are comfortable with your prospective community’s dining policy.

As you research retirement communities, you will find differences in their policies. But the one commonality should be that they have a plan to protect residents, workers, volunteers, and visitors from the spread of COVID-19. 

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff