I have repeatedly been asked in recent weeks whether a move to a senior living community at this time is “safe.” My answer? No, it is not as safe as we would hope, given the prevalence and the uncertainties of the coronavirus, CoVID10. While reported nursing home deaths related to CoVID19 may be at times inflated or otherwise erroneous, we do know that at least 20,000 and possibly more than 40,000 senior Americans have died in nursing homes during the pandemic, as the sudden onslaught of CoVID19 left many providers and public leaders ill-prepared. Certainly, most senior living facilities are doing their very best to ensure the safety and health of their residents and staff, and are working diligently to follow official public health guidelines for disease prevention. At this time, however, heightened concerns about CoVID safety call for careful evaluation of each and every senior housing option, as some placements must continue out of sheer necessity.
While long-term care facilities are following standard public health guidelines to protect residents as much as possible from CoVID and other ailments, at this time each long-term care community is conducting new admissions a bit differently. Here are some varied examples I have encountered thus far:
1. My client is only 60 years old and has some very serious health issues that render her bedridden. I was hired to find short-term rehabilitation that could also keep her for long-term placement after a stay in a specialty hospital. This objective was a terrible challenge because of her age and her funds being rather limited. Many of the communities rejected her, I suspect because they held the perception that a Medicaid claim would be looming from this client within a short period of time as her limited funds dwindled. The rate of reimbursement for a Medicaid recipient is significantly lower than what a community would receive if a person were paying privately.
In the end, my client worked very hard at her physical therapy. I was able to find another community where she could start in the skilled nursing area and transition to a lower level of care called sheltered care. The sheltered care area offered her an opportunity to occupy her own apartment instead of a shared room. And, she could remain there under Medicaid after her funds were depleted.
Upon admission to the community, she was placed in a private room for 14 days after her temperature was taken. They planned to watch closely for CoVID symptoms. (In accord with state guidelines, facilities today will monitor residents’ vital signs closely and will quarantine any resident with CoVID-like symptoms, to prevent further spread of illness).
2. My second example involves an 84-year-old woman who has issues with her weight and Diabetes. While her current rehabilitation community has no long-term beds, their sister community in another location stated it would be able to accommodate her, long-term. However, that community was not accepting any new admissions at the time of my inquiry. Arrangements have been made to keep her at the current community and then conduct a transfer when the sister community opens its doors to new admissions again. (At this time facilities might not accept new admissions in order to avoid over-crowding and allow for adequate private rooms, etc., and\or to maintain proper staff-to-client ratios and adequate supplies of masks and other personal protective equipment).
3. A third and final example: I am currently working with a couple who is in need of assisted living. The man has a terminal condition whereby he may not live longer than a year. His wife has dementia and is need of memory support. The community that I have presented as an option for them has no CoVID cases. That community is conducting tours and admissions. They are taking visitors temperatures, limiting the number of visitors in the building, practicing social distancing, and requiring them to wear masks Perhaps the community’s record of zero CoVID cases speaks well to its safeguards and preventative measures. At any rate, as you can see, current policies with regard to new admissions vary widely in the age of CoVID precautions!
In some cases, people have contacted me to help with evaluation and planning so they are prepared for whatever the next step might be. Now more than ever, senior living decisions must be addressed on a day by day, case by case level, because no two seniors — or communities — are alike. ADSLA exists to help seniors and families navigate the both the complexities and the uncertainties of long-term planning.