Are Assisted Living Communities Safe?
May 5, 2020
It was not long after COVID-19 arrived in the U.S. that many residents in a nursing home in Washington State fell ill. That immediately raised public health concerns for those living in long term care facilities or “congregate care facilities,” as they are also called, and resulted in seniors and families putting the brakes on thinking about, or moving into, senior living communities. At that time, every health care entity was sorting out their safety protocols and putting plans in place to mitigate and contain the virus’ spread. So, there was reason for concern. Now, as the pandemic continues two months on, those safety protocols are firmly in place in most senior communities around the country. That includes nursing homes, assisted living & memory care and independent living communities. It is important here to explain the difference between nursing homes and other senior facilities. Nursing homes offer the most extensive care a person can get outside a hospital. They provide skilled nursing care around the clock as the elderly residents are the sickest with the most care needs. And as everyone knows by now, older adults are especially at risk for the virus which is why the larger outbreaks of COVID-19 have occurred in these facilities. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/older-adults.html) Assisted Living communities, meanwhile, are for seniors who need some help with their daily activities, such as bathing and eating, but do not need the high level of care provided in a nursing home. Memory care areas within assisted living, or in a stand-alone structure, offer care for those with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other forms of memory impairment. Finally, independent living communities, which are often attached to a larger assisted living community, are for seniors with minimal or no care needs. With assisted living communities experiencing less prevalence of the virus, it leaves seniors and their families wondering if it is safe to move into an assisted living or memory care community? The answer is yes, in some cases. The fact is some seniors may be safer in assisted living than at home. And with the senior communities following strict protocols around hygiene, social distancing, wearing face masks and limiting communal gatherings in the facility, etc., it continues to be a safe option. In particular:
- Assisted living may be better for seniors with a medical condition that may necessitate urgent attention, and their caregiver is not always there to provide it or does not have the expertise to address it.
- Those who need regular help with bathing, going to the bathroom, or eating, may be better suited in assisted living.
- Older adults with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia can be cared for appropriately and safely in assisted living.
- Older adults living with others that cannot socially distance themselves.