Were concerns about senior living communities valid this week as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day arrived and Ohioans discovered that 75% of their state’s Covid-19 deaths were inside nursing homes? Plans to keep older adults safe in congregate living have failed.
Our oldest and most vulnerable population hasn’t been allowed visitors since early March. Families and friends haven’t seen inside skilled nursing centers and dementia units in over three months. The best scenario for an in-patient is a room on the first floor with an exterior window. Others cannot be “seen” unless a center is willing to accommodate and facilitate a virtual online session. That adds one more challenge to communities dealing with reduced staffing numbers and maximized workloads.
Families, Friends, And Advocates Have Two Big Concerns About Senior Living Communities
- How long can someone survive this extended period of isolation?
- How would anyone know if there is abuse or neglect?
Paula Mueller of Elderly Advocates has been working tirelessly to open the closed doors. The advocates have asked for cameras to view loved ones, just as doggie daycares and childcare centers have used for years. They’ve voiced concerns to State Representatives and Senators to seemingly no avail. They are asking everyone to sign a petition to oppose Ohio’s House Bill 606 and Senate Bill 308. Click here to sign the petition!
Is There Any Good News For Seniors? YES!
A number of facilities said they had nothing good to report but good information came freely from several senior living communities that were willing to talk.
Lori Black is the Office Manager of Wesleyan Meadows, where residents live in well-maintained homes as part of the continuing care retirement community. She said they are strictly following state guidelines. The residents are definitely missing social interaction and activities but the latest guidelines for groups of 10 or fewer will allow card games, ping-pong, and use of exercise equipment now.
Lori has offered “Creativity Challenges” by email to residents. In a recent Challenge, she asked, “What does your perfect day look like? Please write about it, send a photo, or draw a picture… It would be nice to vicariously enjoy one another’s perfect days!” Lori then compiled the responses for all to enjoy. She believes it has helped them to continue to know each other and feel connected.
Thinking Outside The Box
There are other senior living administrators coming up with innovative ways to keep residents from feeling isolated and alone, as well.
Brookdale Westlake Village offers four levels of care: independent, assisted, memory care, and skilled nursing. Their 350+ residents are antsy to be more social but they’re glad they feel protected.
Residents at Brookdale have regularly scheduled virtual appointments with family members. For example, Judy “sees” her daughter every Tuesday at 4 PM and Sam “visits” his grandchildren every Saturday morning at 10 AM. The staff has even created virtual birthday parties for their residents.
With the assistance of dedicated staff, older adults have become savvier with technology during the quarantine. Virtual concerts by local entertainers like Mary Beth Ions have kept spirits up and families have sent loved ones tablets with FaceTime already set up for them. At the push of a button, grandma can make a virtual call by herself once she is familiar with how it works.
Lake Pointe Health Center in Lorain, Ohio is a skilled nursing facility offering senior rehabilitation and long-term care.
Facilities don’t always disclose how many residents and employees are infected with Covid, but Director Ashley Giltner was happy to say that no residents or staff have had Covid there. Residents have been kept engaged with inventive doorway activities, including the following:
- Hit a balloon with a pool noodle as it goes past the doorway to keep it going.
- Residents play Hallway Bingo from their doorway.
- Remote control car races create laughter and excitement.
- Hospice workers decorated windows and had a superhero parade.
- Their Facebook promotion resulted in 445 incoming greeting cards and letters. Residents were delighted to receive mail.
Lake Pointe introduced Facebook Portal to residents, a type of video chat that automatically zooms and tracks people’s movements. Apparently, it’s a favorite for families because it allows a clearer view of the resident.
Eldercare attorney Rachel Kabb, interviewed by Aging Gracefully TV in February 2020 just prior to the shutdown, says she has never had such big concerns over the welfare of older adults as now. The fact that some senior living centers have had zero Covid cases while others have had so many is a mystery that needs to be figured out as quickly as possible.
With skilled nursing and memory care doors closed for this length of time, there are real concerns about the effects of isolation and interruption of familial relationships. It takes work and coordination to align needed services, but perhaps loved ones can be comfortably cared for at home with the same or even a lesser amount of risk of dying (since three-fourths of deaths have been in nursing homes)?
Even if nursing home doors open to visitors, will they be shut down again for a predicted “second wave?”
The future is unknown, but still, isn’t this a very good time to reassess our options?
Share your thoughts in the comment box below…
Do you have a family member in a nursing home that you haven’t been able to visit?
Do you think in-room cameras are practical or do you have another idea to “look in?”
Is there a solution for keeping our loved ones safe that hasn’t been mentioned?