Living Plans Upended by Pandemic

In the current COVID-19 landscape, people are spending far more time in their homes, working, educating children or grandchildren, cooking, gardening, and checking off to-do lists.  Many older adults who were contemplating downsizing or making a move into a retirement community have re-thought their decision in light of the pandemic. 

Spending all your time at home with a spouse or other loved ones is made much more enjoyable with a little extra space.  With adult children flocking to the suburbs to avoid crowded subways and cramped apartments in the city, older parents may be glad they held onto the family home where work-from-home offices, home gyms, and entertainment nooks have room to materialize.  

Elderly adults who may have planned a move into assisted living are wondering if they are safer living independently for now despite the continued social isolation.  It’s a difficult decision for families and one that is best made in collaboration with healthcare professionals, or with the assistance of a care manager who can help facilitate a move or navigate home healthcare options.   A large majority of seniors are taking a “wait and see” approach, according to a recent CNN Health report, but with no end in sight, families must make interim plans to ensure elderly loved ones receive not only healthcare and nutrition but vital social interaction. 

Because long-term care and assisted living facilities vary widely in their safety practices, some doing a much better job than others, it’s important for families to do their homework before making a decision on a move.  Ask lots of questions about COVID outbreaks, cases and deaths, communication practices, health and safety protocols, and how staff are keeping residents socially engaged.  It’s also important to note the occupancy rate for future stability; facilities with lower than 80 percent occupancy may not be able to weather the pandemic successfully.  If a facility is not completely transparent about its practices or financial health, it may be a red flag to move on and look elsewhere. 

As parents homeschooling children while working remotely know, there are no perfect solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic, but with a little creativity and collaboration, we can all help one another get through this difficult time.  Older adults may be an untapped resource in your community to help ease the load. Seniors can be wonderful tutors and mentors, helping to lessen anxiety with a lifetime of experience and the knowledge that “this too shall pass”.