Strategies for Senior Housing Communities During COVID-19

John Hopkins University Medical Center has developed a set of strategies to be utilized by senior housing communities, including assisted living centers, as we continue to deal with COVID-19. While many pandemic restrictions have been loosened in recent months, special attention still needs to be paid to ensuring residents of different types of congregate living facilities are kept safe and healthy. There are five specific strategies that are of particular importance at this juncture of the COVID-19 era:

  • Provider transparency in a senior housing setting
  • Closer ties with healthcare providers in the community
  • Closer connections within the senior housing industry
  • Take advantage of technology
  • Regular testing protocols

Provider Transparency in a Senior Housing Setting

As we continue through the COVID-19 era, when it comes to senior housing settings, provider transparency is crucial. What this means is that the operators and staffs of senior housing settings must provide residents with accurate and truthful information about how these centers will be addressing the coronavirus at this juncture in time. This includes ensuring that accurate information is provided on matters that include:

  • Presence of coronavirus in a facility, with recognition of the need to protect resident patient privacy
  • Strategies in place or proposed to protect residents of a senior housing facility from the virus
  • Ready information about when and where testing will be available

Closer Ties With Healthcare Providers in the Community

In the COVID era, a senior housing facility should ensure that it has close ties to different healthcare providers within the community. Of course, this should have always been the case. It has become far more important now that we are in the COVID era. These connections need to include hospitals, physician’s offices, and specialized medical clinics. 

By strengthening the connections between senior housing communities and healthcare providers, residents of these facilities for older individuals will have smoother access to medical assistance that they might need. This includes situations in which residents of senior communities need medical care arising out of COVID-19. It also includes situations in which older individuals in senior communities need medical assistance for some other type of medical condition, disease, or illness.

Closer Connections Within the Senior Housing Industry

Another strategy that senior housing communities needs to embrace is developing closer connections with other senior housing facilities. Developing close connections allows for a better exchange of ideas between facilities that provide housing to the more vulnerable older population. This includes ideas and information associated with issues that include:

  • Controlling COVID in a senior community
  • Dealing with COVID outbreaks
  • Developing a COVID testing protocol for a community
  • Keeping family members abreast of COVID strategies in a community

It is understood that this type of connecting within the senior housing industry will involve competitors coming together and working together at least to some degree. In this day and age, in the COVID-19, there are times in which the safety and wellness of senior housing community residents by definition trumps the inherent competition that does sometime exist in the senior housing community industry.

Take Advantage of Technology

Another strategy to utilize during the COVID-19 era is taking advantage of available technology. Of course, this includes technology designed to allow people to communicate with one another virtually. For example, technology permits people to stay in contact with others virtually if they are in a COVID quarantine.

Technology can also be used to assist in keeping residents informed about issues associated with the coronavirus and associated matters. In the end, the proper use of technology in the COVID-19 era can work to ensure that residents are kept physically, emotionally, and psychologically well. 

Regular Testing Protocols

A major strategy that should be implemented and maintained by all senior housing communities is regular COVID-19 testing protocols. These are the current COVID-19 general testing guidelines in place at this time:

  • If you have symptoms, test immediately.
  • If you were exposed to COVID-19 and do not have symptoms, wait at least 5 full days after your exposure before testing. If you test too early, you may be more likely to get an inaccurate result.
  • If you are in certain high-risk settings, you may need to test as part of a screening testing program.
  • Consider testing before contact with someone at high risk for severe COVID-19, especially if you are in an area with a medium or high COVID-19 Community Level.

A senior housing community should implement these guidelines in a manner that reflects the nature of the living environment. In addition, a senior housing community will want to consider seriously implementing a regular resident COVID-19 testing schedule. This might be testing residents on a weekly basis. 

A physician should oversee the overall testing program implemented at a senior housing community. Such a doctor should be involved in all aspects of implementing and maintaining a COVID-19 testing program in a senior housing community.