Coronavirus COVID-19 and Assisted Living Facilities
The current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has many people not only worried about their well-being but also the well-being of their elderly loved one in assisted living facilities. There are more than 1.7 million elderly adults that reside in approximately 15,600 long-term care in the United States. These establishments including senior assisted living facilities, skilled nursing facilities, and nursing homes where aging adults receive benefits of group living, such as social interaction, and health care services. These residents are already a vulnerable population due to their age and some with underlying medical conditions. They are also our parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and loved ones; and we want to make sure they are cared for, safe, and comfortable during this time of uncertainty.
What exactly is the Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains, “A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.
There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. The name of this disease was selected following the World Health Organization (WHO) best practices external icon for naming new human infectious diseases.
COVID-19 is a new disease and there is limited information regarding risk factors for severe disease. Based on currently available information and clinical expertise, older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.”
Who is at Risk?
- Anyone 65 years and older
- People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
- People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled
- Those with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
- People with serious heart conditions, diabetes, liver disease, or chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
- Those who are immunocompromised (undergoing cancer treatment, receiving bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications)
- Severely obese people (BMI greater than 40)
What if Your Loved One is in an Assisted Living Facility?
- Stay calm! If your elderly family member is in a reputable assisted living facility the staff is following the Guidance for Infection Prevention and Control protocol.
- Keep in touch remotely. Use texts, email, Skype, FaceTime, or even an old fashioned telephone call to stay in touch and check on your loved one.
- Educate yourself about the coronavirus. Stay up to date on developments regarding COVID-19 and make sure information is factual and from reliable
- Follow the facilities rules and guidelines. Keep a distance if visitation is reduced or respect their restricted visitation policy.
- Talk to the facility. Ask them questions about their plan and quarantine policy. How are they reducing infection risk? Are they screening staff members for signs of illness, and providing them with education to reduce their exposure to COVID-19 from other health care facilities and the community?