Senior Communities and the Coronavirus: FAQ

Since our elderly are at greater risk to COVID-19 (coronavirus), you may be worried about your loved one living in a senior community. You’re right to be concerned. As of Friday, March 20, more than a quarter of the American lives lost to COVID-19 were people living in senior living communities.

Let’s talk about how we can support our loved ones and what senior communities are doing in the face of this crisis. It will take all of us working together to see our loved ones through this outbreak.


Why Can’t I Visit My Loved One in Assisted living?

Pennsylvania’s Department of Health (DOH) has issued guidelines for personal care and assisted living homes that restrict access to only staff, medical professionals, and providers of essential services. These precautionary measures are intended to reduce the chances of introducing COVID-19 to resident populations.

This means visitors are not allowed except in some compassionate care cases for people who are at the end of their life. These visits are up to the discretion of the facility.

While it’s stressful not to be able to visit our loved ones during these trying times, it is the best way to reduce the risk of introducing a deadly disease to an extremely vulnerable population.

What Are Senior Communities Doing to Curb the Spread of COVID-19?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released detailed guidelines for senior communities to follow that should help curb the spread of COVID-19. A few of their recommendations include:

Restrict visitation apart from some compassionate care situations

Restrict all volunteers and non-essential healthcare personnel

Cancel all public or non-essential group activities and events

Offer take-out and shelf-stable meals options as alternatives to communal dining

Implement active screening for staff and residents to check for fevers and coughs

When Is It Safe To Visit My Loved One Again?

Governor Tom Wolf’s executive order to suspend non-essential activity and limit gatherings to 10 people is valid through at least April 6. The situation will be assessed in the next two weeks, and the order may be extended further until the crisis passes. That being said, visitation restrictions are variable among the different types of senior communities and facilities with most taking a strict “No Visitors” stance except during some last stage of life situations. After April 6, we encourage you to reach out to your loved one’s community administration before planning a visit.

And until then, consider instead connecting with your loved ones via phone call, email (and e-greeting cards), and video call if possible.

Will My Loved One Still Get the Care They Need?

Most senior communities are limiting the number of staff to only those essential for required living. This adjustment should not effect the daily routine of many seniors. Residents of assisted living communities, however, often bring in additional outside help for specific tasks that the staff doesn’t have time for. As this may affect the services provided, we recommend contacting their community to see how they are handling an increased demand for their staff.

At Senior Living Specialists Philly, we are here to stand by you during this unprecedented and challenging time. We are strongest together as a community. Please feel free to reach out with any concerns, and we will do our best to help you ask the right questions and navigate the COVID-19 regulations as they related to our seniors.

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