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Why now might be the perfect time to move into senior living

Moving to a senior living community is a difficult and sometimes emotional decision in the best of times, but we aren’t living in the best of times. These days, seniors and their families must weigh not only the usual factors of lifestyle, cost and programming but also the risk associated with communal living in a COVID-19 world.

While COVID-19 is certainly at the forefront of our daily lives, focusing solely on that hides the benefits that community living brings – especially now. Living in a group setting with a team of professionals working to keep you safe, secure and health adds up to major benefits.

From ensuring entrances are secure to following strict protocols for cleanliness; dining professionals creating balanced, healthy dining options delivered to your residence; on-site physical, occupational and speech therapy; and customized wellness programs addressing cognitive, social and physical well-being, community living has much to offer.

Recent research affirms the importance of being in a group versus alone, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis and shelter-in-place mandates. Community living offers the daily opportunity for interacting with others, even if it does have to be from a safe distance with a mask on. At PMMA communities, our life enrichment staff is working hard to continue creating opportunities for engagement online and, safely, in person with other residents and family members.

Research shows isolation can cause feelings of distress and loneliness, which in turn can lead to physical and cognitive declines and depression. An increase in the stress hormone cortisol causes physiological changes that can affect behavior, depression and appetite. Considering the wellness focus and support and enhanced safety measures that come with community living, a PMMA community provides more opportunity for secure, social living.

Safety and security

Safety and security are always important considerations in choosing where you live. That’s why questions about safety and security have always been among the most common questions we get from seniors and their families, and it’s an area where our residents consistently rank us high at all levels of living, scoring above the national average for independent living, assisted living and health care.

In addition to the usual questions about controlled entrances, security protocols and emergency procedures, in the COVID world, seniors and their families are now asking about infection control protocols, hygiene and sanitation.

Significant media attention has been focused on COVID-19 outbreaks in senior living communities, which has caused many to be wary of senior living settings. It’s important to recognize that not all senior living settings are the same. Across the industry, rates of COVID infection among residents living independently at retirement communities has been quite low.

At PMMA communities, from March 1 to July 31, less than 1 percent of the more than 4,000 residents and employees tested positive for COVID-19. PMMA continually monitors and follows recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and state and local health officials.

Access to the COVID-19 vaccine

Residents in senior living communities get first priority for the COVID-19 vaccine, including independent living residents who reside on continuing care retirement community (CCRC) or life plan community campuses.

With age and supply limiting access to the vaccine for the general population, residents in senior living communities have the peace of mind knowing that they are first in line to receive the vaccine due to the vulnerability of their residents to serious illness.

COVID-19 safety protocols

Resident and employee safety is a top priority for PMMA. PMMA’s leadership first started talking about how to prepare for COVID-19 in January, nearly two months before the first cases were confirmed in our area. Updates were made to policies and procedures for emergency preparedness and emergent infectious disease protocols, and these policies continue to be updated as recommendations from the CDC, CMS and state and local health officials are updated. PMMA will remain vigilant in its response to COVID-19.

A certified infection prevention specialist sits on the PMMA senior leadership team, and there is a designated infection preventionist in every community who received specific training in infection prevention through nationally accredited infectious disease programs. Team members complete an infectious disease course during orientation and then annually as well as a workplace emergency course and a blood borne pathogen course.

In addition, each PMMA community scheduled education sessions with residents and families across all levels of living on hand hygiene and cough/sneeze etiquette as a reminder of the best ways to avoid infection. Communities continue to provide education to residents and their families on COVID-transmission prevention practices.

PMMA implemented employee pre-shift screening before they have any contact with residents. Employees are encouraged to follow CDC best practices for the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) as required for their job responsibilities.

Residents are encouraged to practice social distancing, staying 6-feet away from one another and wear a mask or face covering when outside their residence or when staff members are present. As communities begin to reopen, they are doing so with care and caution. They are starting with instituting small group communal dining and activities. As reopening progresses, they will begin allowing limited scheduled in-person visitation with social distancing, visitor screening and precautions, including hand hygiene and wearing of masks or face coverings.

Many residents have said they are grateful to be living in a community during the pandemic because of the precautions their campuses have taken and the effort staff members have put in to ensuring resident safety and emotional health. They didn’t have to worry about meals and groceries, and being part of a community was less isolating than being in a single-family home.

Want to learn more about life at a PMMA senior living community? Visit Our Communities and contact us to speak with a counselor, take a virtual tour or home visit, or schedule time to speak with a resident of one of our communities.

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