The beloved summer season is quickly approaching, but many people are not as eager to break out the swimsuits, pack up the car for summer road trips, or take to the skies to travel to their previously planned summer destinations. These difficult and uncertain times that the Coronavirus has brought upon us has many thinking that summer 2020 will be put on hold or cancelled altogether. So what will summer 2020 look like for the long-term care/assisted living industry? Although there is still a great level of uncertainty as things are changing every day, here is our take on what summer might look like at assisted living facilities in 2020:
Modified/Restricted Summer Activities
Summer is the time to get outside and engage with residents in the open, beautiful weather. Will that still be the case this summer? Obviously, it’s not good to keep everyone inside. Everyone deserves to enjoy the sunshine! However, for facilities that may have been gearing up for some scheduled or programmed summer activities, modifications may be needed in order to better adhere to social distancing guidelines. Social distancing guidelines have completely altered how groups of people meet and interact with each other, especially for individuals (such as seniors) that are at higher risk of contracting Coronavirus. Gathering larger groups of residents for outdoor games, activities, and programs will most likely need to be modified. Breaking larger groups up into smaller groups of 10 or less may be a safer strategy. Also, even with smaller groups, conducting summer activities in large, open spaces that will allow residents and staff to spread out will help to better adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Less Field Trips
The overwhelming impact on travel and fear of going out and running the risk of being exposed to Coronavirus has many people second guessing even the smallest of travel plans. Facilities that typically offer residents casual outings such as going shopping, visiting attractions, dining out, and other outings may already be taking precautions by reducing the number of outings, planned destinations, or even cancelling some outings all together. The matter of “if” and “when” it may be appropriate to take residents out of facilities for such outings are difficult to determine as many states and regions have begun reopening phases. If your facility was planning or has planned resident outings in the near future, it is strongly recommended that you consider your region’s current COVID status, recommended guidelines for long-term care facilities, and the kinds of risks your residents may be exposed to before deciding to take anyone outside of the facility. If it is deemed unsafe to do so, consider alternative activities on-property like a movie night, or provide residents with a special meal (be mindful of residents’ dietary restrictions if you decide to do this).
Closer Monitoring of Visitor Traffic
While every facility should be logging visitors that come on property as part of their best practices, taking extra steps in monitoring visitor traffic may be needed this summer. It is likely that long-term care and assisted living facilities will begin to relax visitor restrictions as the COVID-19 climate starts to dwindle, which will open them up to more visitor traffic. The concern here is that it is difficult to know exactly where visitors have been, where they are coming from, and who they have been around. You may not know if they were recently in a virus hotspot region or have been around an infected individual, and the potential risk of an asymptomatic individual entering your facility could put your residents at risk. As more visitors are out travelling and coming to visit loved ones in facilities like yours to more scrupulous detail may need to be put into how visitors are logged. Visitor questionnaires that ask visitors if they have had any recent contact or exposure to Coronavirus, or have recently been to a highly exposed area, may be a strong new addition to visitor logs for quite some time. Requiring visitors to wear masks while on property and having other PPE readily accessible, such as gloves, should also be a part of facility practices. This should include family visitors as well as contractors. Daily screenings/temperature readings for facility staff should continue for as long as needed in order to monitor staff as well.
We know that summer plans for millions of people, both inside and outside the long-term care and assisted living industries, are highly uncertain as we monitor the COVID-19 situation on a day-to-day basis. Summer 2020 is going to look a lot different, but “different” does not mean “lost.” Adjustments and alternatives can be made in order for facilities to provide a happy and healthy summer for residents everywhere. Focusing on what can be done rather than what can’t be is the mindset that facility coordinators should hone into in order to make the most of summer in 2020.