Making the Right Senior Living Decision in the Time of COVID-19
Posted On July 2, 2020
Written by Anthony Cinotti, Founder, NAOSA
Accepting that you are no longer able to live independently is one of the most challenging times in a person’s life. It may be because of a physical or mental disability, or simply because you are getting older and find it difficult to do the things you once could. Your loved ones want the very best for you, and together you have to make the right decisions for your future.
Today, the choices are far more complex and stressful than they ever were. The Coronavirus has impacted everything in our lives, and choosing a senior living community has become more challenging. There is a lot to consider and having the right information will take away some of the stress for you and your family.
The Coronavirus has not changed the types of senior living options that are available. Choosing the right option for you is the best place to start. Together with your family, you need to be honest and open about your situation, which will help you choose the ideal living facility to suit your specific needs. Change:
COVID-19 has impacted the various types of senior living in different ways. While the option you choose will largely be determined by your current situation, both financially and health wise, you do need to consider the impact of the Coronavirus on each.
Impact of COVID-19 on Nursing Homes
A nursing home is a type of senior living that is intended for older adults who have a high level of dependence on others. These individuals require continuous monitoring due to severe illness, physical disability, or late stage dementia. Skilled nursing assistance is provided around the clock to address health issues and life management.
Unfortunately, nursing homes are often the final stage for older adults who will never be able to live by themselves.
Seniors who live in nursing homes are at the greatest risk when it comes to the Coronavirus. Nursing home residents often have numerous health issues and COVID-19 places seniors at the highest risk, especially for those with chronic heart or respiratory problems. If they become infected by the virus, it can be difficult for them to recover.
Nursing homes are an intimate environment. Health care workers interact with residents on a personal level which presents a higher risk of infection. The employees of nursing homes also interact with external environments, such as their homes, retail shopping and public transportation. Due to these factors, there is concern of workers introducing the virus to the nursing home. Residents may also be situated quite close to one another, increasing the possible spread of the virus.
Residents of nursing homes may also require periods of hospitalization due to health issues. Visits in and out of the hospital increases the risk of infection, not only for these patients but for other residents as well.
Protecting yourself in a nursing home requires that all individuals, both workers, and residents, be screened for the virus every time that they enter the facility, and all staff must always wear masks . If this screening is not happening, you need to insist that it be done.
Impact of COVID-19 on Assisted Living Communities
Unlike a nursing home, assisted living is intended for older adults who need some assistance with the tasks of daily living. Usually, assisted living is the ideal choice for seniors who do have some level of mobility but find it difficult to prepare meals or perform other activities of daily living.
In an assisted living community, seniors do have a risk of infection from the Coronavirus primarily from the nature of assisted living itself. Sometimes residents make use of shared devices such as walkers or wheelchairs. These communities also provide social opportunities for their residents, which means that residents may be meeting in groups.
Protecting yourself against the risk of infection from the virus is somewhat the same as for residents of a nursing home. The same level of screening should be performed for individuals coming in and out of the facility. Whenever people meet in groups, social distancing must always be observed.
Impact of COVID-19 on Independent Living
Independent living is another senior living option. This is the perfect option for individuals who can live without daily assistance. You may still need someone to help now and then, but you are able to live alone generally. Independent senior living is similar to living in an apartment or condominium, with added services that appeal to older adults.
The Coronavirus hasn't impacted independent living much more than any other residential environment. One thing to be aware of is that many independent living communities have common areas and may provide social activities. When participating in any social activity or making use of common space such as a party or exercise room, it is a good idea to clean and disinfect it before using the space.
Are there other options?
COVID-19 is going to be with us for some time. We all need to learn to protect ourselves and manage the risk of infection, but you still need to address your living situation. It may be unwise to choose to do nothing at all. So, are there other options to consider?
Using the services of a caregiver
You may be able to continue living at home and get the assistance you need from a caregiver. This person might be a professional or a member of your own family.
Staying in your home and making use of a caregiver may present a lower risk of infection, but you do need to follow the recommended CDC guidelines; keep a social distance, wash your hands frequently, require that your caregiver wear a mask, and remain vigilant about symptoms, among other things. Caregivers may also be seeing multiple people, so it is still very important to be cautious if you choose this option.
The cost of care can be prohibitive. While costs will vary based on region, you can expect to pay $20 to $30 per hour for non-medical (custodial) care, and $60+ per hour for home health care. Some services will have minimum hour restrictions, so be sure to find a service provider that is suited to the level of assistance you require.
Generally, if you need full time assistance, it makes better financial sense to live in a senior living community. However, the choice is yours.
Only you can determine the best option
Reaching the time in your life where you need assistance, either a high level of care or occasional help, means that you and your family have to make careful decisions. COVID-19 does need to be taken into account, but don't let it delay taking action. Your need for assistance is not going to go away. It would be reckless not to consider the risk of infection, but your options should not be determined solely on that basis.
All options available has a level of risk when it comes to the Coronavirus. Being aware of the level of that risk, and mitigating against it, is the key to making the right choice for you. First, consider your needs, and then consider COVID-19. The level of assistance you require needs to be your primary concern.
The National Association of Senior Advocates (NAOSA) is here to help. Our Gold Standards of Professional Practice ensure you that our network of service providers follow strict industry-leading guidelines. The type of senior living you choose is a stressful decision, you shouldn’t have to worry about the quality of care.