Reasons for an epidemic: Seniors have second thoughts about where to live

Some people who were planning to move to senior housing are now preferring to live independently rather than living communally. Others wonder if shifting to a setting where they can get more help may be the right call.

These harsh decisions during normal times are now fraught with uncertainty as the economy collapses and Kovid-19’s deaths climb, including thousands in nursing homes and aid centers.

Teresa Ignacio Gonzalvo and her husband, Jaime, both 68, chose to build a home in Indianapolis from Virginia Beach, Virginia later this year to be closer to their daughters rather than move to a continuing care retirement community.

Having heard of a nationwide lockdown due to coronovirus, Gonzalvo said, “We have realized that we are not ready to lose our freedom.”

64-year-old Alyssa Ballot plans to leave her 750-square-foot apartment in downtown Chicago and lay the roots in a multicultural cohabitation community where neighbors usually share food and entertainment zones and often help each other Huh.

“What I have learned during this epidemic is that personal relationships matter to me the most, not the place” she said.

Kim Beckman and her husband Mike, 64, were set to own a home in Victoria, Texas and rent to a community of 55 or more in an independent living apartment building in North Texas before Kovid-19 was hit.

Beckman said, “Now they are considering buying another big house because” if you’re going to live in the house all the time, you can live comfortably. “

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“I know everybody’s talking about it,” said Wendle Kornfeld, 71, who lives in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. They have temporarily limited the possibility of moving to a continuing care retirement community being built in the Bronx.

“My husband and I are going to ring it by ear; we want to see how things play out” with the epidemic, she said.

In Kornfeld’s circle, people commit to staying in their homes or apartments for as long as possible – at least at the moment. Their fear: If they move to a senior living community, they may be more likely to face an outbreak of Kovid-19.

“We’ve all heard of a large number of deaths in senior facilities,” Kornfeld said. But people who live in their homes may have trouble getting cheap help when needed, she admitted.

Avoid nursing homes amid epidemic

According to the latest calculations by the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 70,000 residents and staff members and assisted living in nursing homes had died from Kovid-19 by mid-August.

This is an undercount as less than half of the states are reporting Kovid-19 data in Assisted Living. Nor has the data been reported for people living independently in senior housing. (Kaiser Health News is the editorial independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.)

Knowing a plan is necessary for a sick relative, it may still take a crisis to act.

Nervousness about senior life has spread as a result, and in July, the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care began tracking research organization data 14 years ago.

Occupancy recorded a greater decline in assisted living (a decline of 3.2% during April to June, compared to January to March) compared to independent living (a decline of 2.4%). The organization does not compile data on nursing homes.

In a separate NIC survey of senior housing officials in August, 74% said that families have expressed concern about moving in many parts of the country as cases of Kovid.

Overcome possible isolation

The possibility of social isolation is particularly worrying, as facilities retain restrictions on family visits and group meals and activities. (While states have begun allowing people living in nursing homes and aid centers to move out, most facilities do not yet allow them to move in – a situation that will increase frustration when the weather turns cold.)

NIC chief economist and director of outreach Beth Burnham Mess stressed that the operators set up new safety and hygiene protocols, moving programming online, helping residents buy groceries and other essentials, and Kovid-19 , Emphasizing to communicate regularly about both. On site and in the community at large, much more regularly.

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Mary Kazlasky, 76, lives independently in Heron Key, a continuing care retirement community in Gig Harbor, Washington, doing all of this and a sister facility with Emerald Heights in Redmond, Washington.

“We all feel safe here,” she said. “Even though we are strongly advised not to go into each other’s apartments, at least we can see each other down the hall and down in the lobby and out on the deck. As far as the isolation The thing is, you are isolated here. 200 people: There is someone who is always around. ”

A staff member at Heron Key tested positive for Kovid-19 in August, but regained. Twenty residents and staff members in Emerald Heights tested positive. Two residents and a staff member died.

Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging, emphasized that some communities are doing better than others. His organization recently published a report on the future of senior living in light of the epidemic.

It calls on operators to host changes, which include establishing safe visiting areas for families both inside and outside; Providing high-speed Internet services to entire communities; And ensuring, among other recommendations, an adequate supply of masks and other forms of personal protective equipment for residents and employees.

Some families now want them to make arrangements for older relatives so that they can be cared for in a more structured environment before the epidemic begins. They are finding that older relatives living independently, especially those who are weak or have mild cognitive defects, are having difficulty managing themselves.

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“I’ve been hearing from a lot of people – mostly grown daughters – that we waited too long to move mom or dad, we had our head in the sand, can you help us find a place for them, “Said Eli Mazza, owner of Brandywine Concierge Senior Services in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

While many operators began stabilization early in the epidemic, most now allow new residents to test negative for Kovid-19. It also requires quarantine for up to two weeks before people can broadcast it to the community.

However, many older adults do not have the financial means to step in. More than half of the middle-income seniors – about 8 million older adults – cannot afford independent living or assisted living communities, according to a 2019 study.

And according to the federal Supplemental Poverty Measure, more than 7 million seniors are poor, including out-of-pocket medical expenses and other drains on cash reserves.

questions to ask

For those able to consider senior housing, experts suggest you ask several questions:

• How is the facility to communicate with residents and families? Was there an outbreak of Kovid in it? Is it revealing the cases and deaths of Kovid? Is it sharing the latest guidance from federal, state and local public health officials?

• What protocols are put in place to ensure security? “I want to know: Do they have a plan for disasters – not just pandemics, but floods, fires, hurricanes, blizzards?” Milner said. “And beyond a plan, do they have supplies?”

• How does the community connect residents? Are online programming – exercise classes, lectures, interest group meetings available? Is one-on-one interaction with employees possible? Are employees arranging online interactions with the family through FaceTime or Zoom? Are family visits allowed?

“Social engagement and excitement are more important than ever,” said David Scales, president of the American Seniors Housing Association.

• What is the company’s financial position and occupancy rate? “Properties with 90% or more properties are going to be able to withstand the Kovid-19 pressure compared to properties with less than 80% occupancy,” said Mess from the National Investment Center for Senior Housing and Care. . Higher occupancy means more revenue, which allows institutions to better bear the additional expenses associated with the epidemic.

“Transparency is very important,” Scales said.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a non-profit news service covering health issues. This is an editorial independent program KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation) which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.