Many people have been shocked that Covid-19 has had such a major negative impact on the residents of long term care communities, including assisted living. After all, aren’t these places supposed to ensure that our aging loved ones stay healthy? They have nurses and medical care and wellness programs. Where did they fail?
Assisted living facilities in the U.S. serve 730,000-plus of the nation’s most vulnerable population — seniors 65 and older — many of whom have underlying medical conditions and/or do not have family or friends to care for them.
As Covid-19 rapidly spread and lockdown prevailed, senior living facilities faced the same supply chain deterioration and inadequate access to personal protective equipment and appropriate testing as the rest of the world. Yet, they were still charged with caring for the nation’s most vulnerable population every single day.
Testing shortages, strict state-mandated criteria surrounding test administration and delayed results left many senior living operators in the dark about the virus entering their communities as well as with regard to potential numbers of infected residents and employees.
Obviously, our long term care communities have been, for the most part, victims of regulatory agencies’ lack of preparation and slow response to this unprecedented event. Now that they have a somewhat better understanding of how Covid-19 spreads, what does the future hold for senior living communities? Will they continue to impose lockdowns and restrict access to visitors?
We have already seen a movement from established senior living providers to move many of their services “outside the walls,” into the spaces that home care agencies have traditionally inhabited.
But there is also an understanding that for senior living communities to continue to thrive and provide the care that is necessary within this new landscape, changes must be made “inside the walls.” There is no going back to business as usual. Covid-19 will be with us for awhile, and has served as a wake-up call to a senior living industry in which changes were long overdue.
Let’s see who has the best solutions.