Truth be told, when I asked Megan Naiser of Senior Home Transitions to write a guest blog on COVID, it was the middle of January, a time when we really weren’t sure when we were going to get out of this never-ending pandemic. Life got busy and I forgot all about this blog (sorry again Megan!), but now that the Delta Variant is rearing its head, it felt relevant to bring this blog post to light, especially given the complexity of the Delta Variant impacting those across the country.

Below is Megan’s assessment of how the Delta Variant might impact senior living and ways we may not be out of the woods yet.

Senior living looks very different compared to last year. There are more safety protocols in place; activities with social distancing, dining room restrictions, limited visitation, and so much more. Doesn’t sound appealing, does it? However, many communities have truly risen to the challenge that COVID has presented and are helping their residents continue to have a great quality of life, while protecting them from the spreading virus. 

Now that a majority of residents and staff in senior living communities are vaccinated, things are beginning to get back to normal. According to the CDC, over 50% of seniors in Tennessee have been vaccinated, and from conversations with staff in the Senior Living communities, around 80%, if not more, have been vaccinated in most communities. Some communities that have reached herd immunity are even discussing eliminating their mask mandates for residents, but they have to get approval from the state to do so. 

That being said, each community is in a different place in regards to how and when they will be completely back to “normal,” and there is also the Delta variant to consider. Some communities are just now allowing visitors back in their buildings, and some are discussing activities going back to full capacity. Although there are differences between how each community is opening up again, families seem to be less fearful of moving their loved one into a community. The vaccines are providing much needed comfort to seniors and loved ones, and they are allowing families to know that their loved one will be able to get the care they need while also being in a safe environment. 

From what I have seen, most senior living communities have done their best in trying to protect their residents, and I believe they will continue to do so even with the risk of the Delta variant. Although the Delta variant has not affected senior living communities in the area yet, it is important for families to know how each community would handle an outbreak. Since there is still a risk of COVID, communities will most likely continue requiring visitors and staff to wear masks and social distance. There is also a chance of communities locking down in the future to protect their residents, so knowing how each community would handle another outbreak is essential for families to know when choosing a community. 

It’s important to ask questions when looking at a community since each community has different protocols. What kinds of activities are taking place? How many people are allowed to participate in the activities at a time? How many activities are going on throughout the day? What percentage of residents and staff are vaccinated? Is the dining room open for full capacity? If not, how do they seat residents for each meal or are there certain times for meals? What is the community doing to prevent COVID outbreaks? If there is an outbreak, what protocols are in place to keep the residents safe? What is required for moving in? Do new residents need to be vaccinated already or can they be vaccinated after moving into the community? Most importantly, what does visitation look like? Do visitors need to be vaccinated? Where does visitation occur and is there a time restriction on how long a visitor can stay? Does a visitor need to schedule their visit or can they just show up? In the event of an outbreak, what would visitation look like?

For many seniors, making a move is frightening, but necessary, especially for those suffering from dementia. Ever since the pandemic began, things have changed daily in the senior living community – mostly isolating seniors in order to keep them safe. Now, things continue to change daily, but in a more positive direction – allowing seniors to socialize and be around their families. Knowing the right questions to ask and staying in close contact with staff is key to successful transitions. Knowledge and communication regarding the ever-changing landscape during the pandemic are essential in choosing a community that will give seniors the care and quality of life they need and deserve, while keeping them safe. 

Senior Home Transitions is a local and free placement service that stays in touch with communities and can help you narrow your search with first hand knowledge of how these communities are handling all of these situations. Staying informed of vaccinations, safety protocols, and life engagement strategies will help you make the best decision possible for yourself or your loved one. Stay Safe!

Thanks again, Megan, for all this great information!