In one respect, searching for a retirement or assisted living facility in the waning days of the COVID-19 pandemic is the worst possible time. Many facilities are still quarantined to one degree or another. Many residents are wary of enduring the restrictions placed upon them throughout the year. Those who are investigating facilities to find a new residence may hear some negatives, even about the best of residential centers.
On the other hand, this may be the best time to look for an assisted living facility. You’ll get to learn first hand how the center has been dealing with a protracted crisis in senior care.
Checking Out Assisted Living Facilities is Different This Year
Looking for an assisted living center on behalf of a potential new resident is certainly going to be different this year than in previous years. For starters, you may have trouble getting into the place. In previous years, staff and residents might have lined up with open arms and big smiles, ready to take you on the grand tour of the facility they call home. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, was especially brutal when there were outbreaks in nursing homes, assisted living residences, and retirement villages. As a result, virtually all senior care facilities instituted isolation and quarantine protocols. Even after half a year, many of these structures are still in place and may make it difficult for in-person visits to fully explore the property and personality of a residence.
Another result of COVID-19 was the diminishment of activities for residents. Most homes restricted nonemployees from coming onto their campuses and curtailed off-campus activities. This meant that art classes, trips to museums, and inspirational speakers ceased to be part of the home’s offerings. These special events are even now returning only slowly to older adult residences.
What to Find Out About an Assisted Living Facility
While the pandemic might make it difficult for you to enjoy a community meal at a residential center you want to check out, it might actually be an aid in helping grasp the ability of a center to care for the health and well-being of those who live there. While some assisted living homes were decimated by the Coronavirus, there were others that were scarcely affected. Some, like Heidi’s Haven Homes, are COVID-19 free.
The pandemic shone a light on those homes that were better managed and more responsive. This presents itself as the first measure to be considered when searching for an assisted living location. You should ask, how many residents and how many staff members have tested positive for the Coronavirus? It’s also worthwhile to ask, should someone begin to show symptoms of COVID-19, what procedures would you follow? It’s also important to ask what daily procedures are being observed by the residence to cut the risk of an outbreak. The openness of the administration and personnel of the home to discuss these matters and their success in preventing Coronavirus infections may also be an indication of the transparency you might expect from them in the future.
What to Ask the Residents
While isolation restrictions are beginning to ease, you may not be able to visit personally—or at least any closer than six feet—with a resident at an assisted living facility, you can at least chat with them over the phone or via text message or email (yes, surprise, older adults are actually quite adept at digital communication). Here are some of the questions you might want to ask by way of investigating what’s gone on with them during the pandemic and how it has made them feel about their residence, its staff, and administration:
- Have you felt safe and protected during this past year?
- Do you think the administration of the home has done a good job of managing this crisis? What mistakes did they make? What did they do especially well?
- How well did the staff hold up? Did they continue to behave professionally?
- What sort of changes did you have to endure?
- To what degree have things go back to normal?
- Based on your experience here, especially in the past year, is this a place you’d be willing to move into again?
While the pandemic in many ways made life a lot more difficult for everyone, it actually opened some doors that have made evaluating assisted living facilities easier. The restrictions and isolations of the pandemic have revealed how the administration of every retirement village, assisted living center, and nursing home in the nation manages a healthcare crisis in the most difficult and challenging of times. This provides the clearest means of evaluating assisted living residences as you select a placement.