COVID-19 has been hard on everyone. People all over the world are dying, the global economy is struggling, and families and friends have been kept apart for months on end. The most vulnerable populations in our society have lost stability and have been forced to limit their contact with the outside world.
One of the hardest-hit groups has been seniors living in assisted living facilities or nursing homes. During the pandemic, these facilities have had to shut down to visitors and many have experienced outbreaks leading to devastating losses.
Lots of seniors living in these facilities are feeling isolated and scared. Their families are worried about them. While senior housing facilities aren’t a great place to be living during a global pandemic, these institutions are doing their best to adapt and protect their residents. Here are some of the innovative ways they’re preventing COVID outbreaks and ensuring that their residents stay healthy.
Leveraging Informatics to Better Track Overall Health
Older Americans, especially those who are living in senior housing facilities, often struggle with chronic health problems. In fact, about 75% of Americans 65 and older have multiple chronic health problems. Not only do these health problems cause discomfort and a lower quality of life, but they also put people at higher risk for contracting COVID-19.
By carefully monitoring the health of each person living at the facility, assisted living homes and nursing homes can assess risk and do their best to manage any chronic conditions. Monitoring isn’t easy, however, when staff to patient ratios are low and caregivers have to juggle multiple responsibilities.
The good news is that these facilities are leveraging technology and health informatics to constantly monitor patients. Easy-to-use devices and sensors can monitor chronic conditions and overall health while transmitting data securely so it can be viewed by the patient’s healthcare team and family members. This ensures that patients will receive care when needed while providing improved peace of mind for families who are unable to visit during the pandemic.
Visitation Opportunities Are Under Temporary Restriction
One of the biggest challenges facing senior housing facilities during the pandemic is the fact that it is unsafe to bring visitors into a closed building full of high-risk people. Most seniors living in these facilities rely on visits for their mental health and social fulfillment. Right now, most nursing and care facilities have had to place temporary restrictions on visitors.
Some facilities are monitoring traffic closely and limiting group activities among residents in order to allow some visitation. However, this has required a high level of transparency and policies permitting staff members to stay home when they are sick.
Other facilities are turning to virtual visitation and other solutions. Regardless, balancing the need for social interaction with the need for preventing the spread of COVID-19 has been an ongoing challenge that facilities continue to grapple with.
Telehealth Helping Seniors Stay Up-to-Date on Priority Care
Because people living in senior care facilities are extremely high risk, it is safest to limit visitors and trips outside the home for residents. Even a routine doctor’s appointment could put a patient at risk. With the elderly requiring more checkups than someone who is young and healthy, the risks just keep piling up. Fortunately, advanced healthcare technology is once again providing a partial solution.
Telehealth visits are one way facilities are helping seniors manage their health while minimizing potential COVID exposure. During a telehealth visit, a doctor can decide whether or not the patient needs to be seen in person. This cuts down on the number of doctors’ visits residents require, while still allowing them to get the care they need.
New Staff Being Added to Monitor Infection Control
Care facilities are overwhelmed with managing their patients’ daily needs while trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some institutions have created new roles and hired new staff to take charge of pandemic-related issues and concerns.
Having a dedicated staff member in charge of creating policies related to the control of infection is helping facilities to reduce exposure for residents. COVID-19 is highly contagious, especially within closed group facilities, but having someone available to create prevention and containment plans based on scientific guidance has been an important step for some homes.
There is no easy solution for keeping seniors safe in large group facilities. We’ve already seen the devastating impact COVID has had on our most vulnerable members of society. But some homes, at least, are getting creative and doing everything they can to keep residents safe.
Guest Author Bio
With a Bachelor’s in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.