A fall, not eating right, missing medications. Independent seniors and their families know of the risks lurking around the house, especially if an older adult lives alone. As these and other problems start to occur with higher frequency, moving to an assisted living arrangement becomes more urgent. Yet, in the era of COVID-19, families have been more reluctant to consider this alternative.
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COVID-19 has turned the entire world upside-down, and no group has been more affected than those over 55. With the higher risk of complications and death, older adults have a greater stake in this crisis than nearly all other groups. Many seniors have been forced to take stringent quarantine measures and other protective actions to avoid getting sick.
These efforts to avoid disease have created their own problems like feelings of anxiety, boredom, and possibly even depression. As a result, many want to know; how long will the current crisis last? Will it be over when an effective vaccine arrives? When will that occur? Some experts say one might be available in late 2020. Others are less optimistic.
Whenever this storm passes, we'll get back to normal. Or will we? Opinions vary about what "normal" will look like after the pandemic. Some are predicting a "new normal." What might that look like for older adults?
Even as COVID-19 forces the over 55 generation to take rigorous health precautions, many wonder what the post-pandemic world will look like. As a vulnerable population, seniors, especially those with underlying health conditions, expect to be given vaccine priority. The general consensus holds that an effective vaccine will allow life to return to normal. What will this "normal" look like?
Q: What will happen to senior housing?
A: During the pandemic, occupancy levels decreased in all in senior living settings: independent living, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing. The reasons were fear of contracting the virus and increased costs resulting from containment efforts.
Prolonged sheltering in place for seniors has been taking an emotional toll. Separated from loved ones, loneliness and boredom become an everyday threat to health and well-being.
Yet this shut-in time can be an opportunity to create a priceless family heirloom: a personal memoir.
Children, grandchildren, and generations beyond want to know about their ancestors. How many times has each of us had questions we wish our dearly departed were still around to answer? Leaving a legacy of words about who you are and what happened in your life will be treasured.
Putting It Off
Sheltering in place because of COVID-19 can provide an opportunity to finally catalog those years of photos. Too often, photos handed down to the next generation are discarded because there is no information about people and places.
These days, photo storage is a combination of physical and digital. Each type of photo storage has its own process for adding information about an image.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly difficult for seniors as they shelter in place. It is crucial for those 65+ to do everything they can to protect themselves from contracting the virus. Yet, there is also the danger of boredom and social isolation, which could lead to mental health suffering.
One way for seniors and their families to ease the stress brought on by prolonged physical separation from family and friends is to better leverage the conveniences of modern technology.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., significant attention has been given to the impact on senior living facilities. In Minnesota, as of June 1, there were 1,050 deaths related to COVID-19. Of these, 608 (58%) were among skilled nursing facility patients, and 259 (25%) were residents of assisted living facilities. Across the country, reports of severe outbreaks of the infection in senior facilities are regular news.
How is this playing out on the front lines? According to Jennifer Thorson, Executive Director at The Harbors Senior Living Community in Fridley, Minnesota, the pandemic pushed her facility to the limit when it first hit. “We had absolutely no choice but to get on top of this to make sure that we had all the proper procedures in place and be in constant contact with the MN Department of Health for their guidance. Being in a smaller facility such as the Harbors, only having apartments, we were able to control it into one wing of the building and assign a single care provider to take care of those residents who tested positive, limiting the spread even more.”