Planning for Senior Community Living
Lessons from the Pandemic
For many seniors, community living provides the care and socialization that they need or desire. While we pray that we will never encounter a similar situation in the future, it is important to reflect on what can be learned from the pandemic when choosing where and how we spend our golden years.
Quarantines are a Reality
Everyone is aware of the lockdowns that occurred in senior communities during the Covid-19 pandemic. To prevent an outbreak of illness among residents, seniors were quarantined in their rooms for weeks and even months on end. In most cases, residents were unable to visit or even see their loved ones.
While the duration and widespread nature of quarantines were unprecedented, many may not realize that lockdowns have long been a reality of senior community living. The annual flu season can bring brief periods of quarantine for individual seniors and for entire communities, especially in skilled nursing centers.
It is important to inquire about quarantine policies when visiting potential communities to determine if they provide the right balance of protection and socialization for you or your loved one. While quarantines can’t be completely avoided, there are strategies to make the times of isolation much less isolating.
Room Choice makes a Difference
While some seniors had no direct access to relatives, others were able to visit regularly because of their room choices. Residents with main floor rooms were able to converse with visitors through windows. Similarly, those with balconies enjoyed Juliet-style visits with loved ones below. A driveway-facing room afforded views of car parades and a connection to the outside world.
Direct access to outdoor space was a welcome escape for those fortunate to have a patio or balcony.
Talk to admissions personnel about the different room types available and the access they provided during the different stages of the pandemic. If it is necessary to get on a waiting list to secure the most desirable room, that may be a good course of action.
In many cases, activity directors were the unsung heroes of the pandemic for many senior community residents. The creativity of these staff members was instrumental in keeping residents engaged and connected to their neighbors, which is important for good mental health.
Staff members wheeled carts door-to-door to offer residents activity packs and special snacks, often keeping to a seasonal or travel theme. As restrictions loosened, many residents sat in the hallway in front of their doorways to participate in social-distanced exercise classes and bingo games. When outside entertainment wasn’t possible, some staff members got creative with recorded music and even costumes.
Before visiting a community, review their social media posts for the past couple years to see how they engaged residents. Compare posts from other communities with comparable care levels, as well. Most senior communities post regularly which gives a bit of a window into the type of activities available to residents both during the pandemic and afterward.
Technology is Here to Stay
For seniors living independently and in communities, technology played an increased role. FaceTiming with children, grandchildren, and friends became a way to stay connected with those they couldn’t physically visit. The increased use of virtual medical visits during the pandemic has forever changed the way health care is delivered, especially for the homebound and seniors in community living environments.
Many senior communities purchased iPads and other tablets for use by their residents during the pandemic. Even now that the pandemic has passed, the availability of technology remains important.
Talk to the admissions personnel about the technology that is provided to the residents and the assistance given to use that technology. Also ask about what is permitted for residents to bring in with them. For example, w
While it may seem like a great idea to install a surveillance camera (aka ‘granny cam’) to make sure a loved one is receiving proper care, it may not to be permitted due to privacy issues.
Moving to community living from a long-term family home may seem intimidating. Preparation is key to a successful transition. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, it isn’t always possible to research communities immediately prior to making the move. That’s why it is important to do research in advance to come up with a strategy should the need to make an unexpected move arise.
As a Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES),
I partner with other professionals to assist in the transition
from homeownership to senior community living.
Consider me a resource to help make the senior years truly golden!