In an article in The New York Times, the chief medical officer for the American Health Care Association, Dr. David Gifford, said he was “almost at a loss for words” at the dramatic decline in COVID incidences in senior living over the past few months. The line on a graph representing people in senior communities looks like the steepest drop on a thrill ride.
Indeed, with the fresh bloom of spring all around us, the brightening picture in senior living today gives us reason to breathe again (though still through a mask in most places).
The Numbers Now
- The number of cases of COVID in long-term care facilities across the U.S. has declined by 96 percent since the vaccine rollout early this year. Residents and staff in senior living were among the first to receive the vaccine.
- As of this writing, 2,870,277 people in senior communities across the country have been fully vaccinated.
- In the state of Pennsylvania, 182,921 people in senior communities have been fully vaccinated.
- Pennsylvania is currently one of the 12 most vaccinated states in the country.
- 30 percent (just over 98 million) Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, with numbers rising daily. 43 percent of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
In addition to hopeful numbers, in-person visits and some resident outings are now permitted in senior communities by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS).
The Changing Model and Changing the Public’s Mind
Despite the good news, it will take time for the public’s negative perception of senior living to change. Even before the pandemic, public awareness of the industry’s massive shift in focus from geriatric care in sterile settings to multi-faceted quality of life in beautiful accommodations has been slow to catch on.
Yet, the fact remains that housing dedicated to senior citizens is not going away. People will still age; they will still want or need care, kinship and fulfillment. Their family members will continue to need these communities as well. Indeed, according to the adult daughter of a resident in the Barclay Friends community, “For the first time in a long time, I feel like I can be my mother’s daughter instead of a crisis manager.”
As we’ve said, huge improvements have been made over the past several decades in the senior care paradigm. Due largely to the lightning speed with which many adaptations occurred in senior living over the past year, further possibilities have been realized, and greater improvements are yet to come.
A task force comprised of 150 experts in senior living assigned to make recommendations for the future of the industry identified key strategies. Some of them include making improvements to building interiors and exteriors, developing purpose-driven, compassionate staff, preparing for crisis of any kind, making greater use of telehealth, and engaging residents more in decision making and program planning.
Undoubtedly, some of the task force’s proposals were born of the silver linings that have emerged from the pandemic in senior communities across the country.
Like never before, staff and residents have had to innovate, adapt and create new ways to bring everything from meals to cheer. Technology has substituted for in-person meetings of every kind; living spaces have taken on new meaning since outside activities have been restricted; crisis is no longer thought to be something that will “never happen to us.”
And let’s not forget the profound impact of social isolation on every aspect of well-being. Residents, staff, family members, neighbors, and the world at large have more fully realized the critical human need for company, connection and support.
Throughout it all, senior living has become stronger and perhaps even more needed.
New Hope at Barclay Friends After COVID-19
Ninety-nine percent of Barclay Friends residents and 81 percent of our staff have been fully vaccinated against the COVID virus.
Our vaccine rollout began in early January, following a preliminary videoconference for staff with Dr. Thomas Lawrence, system medical director of geriatric medicine and long-term care for Main Line Health and medical director of Kendal Communities and Barclay Friends. Dr. Lawrence educated us about the virus and the vaccine, answered our questions, and shared his own joy in receiving the vaccine.
“[The vaccine] is nothing short of a miracle,” said Dr. Lawrence. Lee Ann Sullivan, Barclay Friends’ director of development and marketing, agreed that the vaccine is a “game changer.” In demonstration of our excitement about the arrival of the vaccine, our staff wore “2021 – The Year of the Vaccine” t-shirts!
Optimism is necessarily still cautious, however, as the general population has not yet achieved herd immunity, and much about the virus is yet to be known. “We can’t let our guard down,” warned Sullivan. However, it cannot be denied that things in senior living are looking up.
Structured in-person visits with family and friends are currently allowed again at Barclay Friends, along with much needed hugs and hand holding for vaccinated residents. Increased confidence among residents, families and prospects is buttressed not only by the vaccine, but by the safety protocols we continue to practice. Currently, along with other protective measures, residents are being tested once per week for COVID. Testing frequency is governed by COVID rates in the outside community.
In addition to a brighter health picture and the myriad social and emotional benefits of senior living, there are significant financial advantages to making a move at this time. Currently across the U.S., it is largely a sellers’ market, with demand for single family homes much higher than supply.
What’s more, now through July 31, Barclay Friends is offering a Summer Special on Preston, our new construction. Save $1,750 on our community fee, applying the funds toward moving assistance or expert advice from an elder law attorney. Call 484-653-3569 or email email@example.com for further information on this limited offer.
The Time is Now!
Cotter and Preston are open and accepting applications. Spring into new hope for you or a loved one today.