Moving into Senior Living During COVID
While speaking with a colleague last week, she mentioned that a friend is looking for Independent Living for her grandmother. Still, she and her grandmother are both nervous about moving into a retirement community during the COVID pandemic.
Over the past few months, many prospective residents and their families have asked us this very question, "is it safe to move into a senior living community right now?" And in addition to safety, families are worried about whether they will be able to visit their loved ones in Independent Living. Indeed, these are valid concerns.
In light of this, we decided to take a video of one of our team members checking in for the day as soon as she arrives on campus before clocking into work. We wanted to give viewers a glimpse of some of the safety precautions we have in place.
Our top priority is, and always has been, keeping our retirement community healthy and safe.
Safety protocols in Senior Living
Employees, visitors, and vendors complete the same check-in process, regardless of which building they are working in or visiting. Kiosks are located just inside the main entrance of each building, which makes the process very easy.
Doug Dreyer, Director of Operations for the Christian Care/Fellowship Square Phoenix campus, initially connected this technology at our sister campus in Historic Mesa. When he transferred to Phoenix in October, he installed the kiosks almost immediately. "Our check-in process is now streamlined with a touchless, non-invasive wall mount thermometer and an electronic self-check-in form, which means our visitors no longer need to fill out lengthy paper forms when visiting their loved ones."
A visitor checks in at the kiosk in Fellowship Square Lobby
Staff or volunteers are stationed at each kiosk to help answer any questions and ensure everyone completes the screening process before proceeding further.
One of the most important benefits of using the kiosks is increased efficiency in contact tracing. Kristie Larsen, Executive Director, says, "By utilizing this low-cost technology, we can maintain our contact tracing and access the information more efficiently if one of our residents or a staff member tests positive for COVID-19. These procedures help keep everyone safe and healthy."
Every 2-3 hours, employees take a moment to disinfect high-touch common areas in and around their department – hence the phrase cycle cleaning. With everyone's participation, we can ensure common areas are disinfected regularly throughout the day. Cycle Cleaning is a great tool to use for cold and flu season as well!
Physically distanced, together
The benefits of living in a retirement community have become even more apparent during the pandemic. When Arizona shut down and the local government issued a mandate to quarantine, many seniors found themselves more isolated than ever.
However, rather than being isolated in a single-family home, our residents received daily meal deliveries from the waitstaff they have grown to know and love. The Activities department found new ways to keep residents socially engaged even though we couldn't gather in person.
Suppose a resident needed repairs in their apartment. In that case, they could put in a work order, as usual, knowing that the tech visiting their home had been carefully screened and was following strict infection control procedures. Fellowship Square/Christian Care became a safety bubble for residents and staff alike, an insulated and supportive community.
Together, we felt safer here than anywhere else.
On April 29th, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issued an Executive Order titled 'Return Stronger', which allowed some businesses to resume operations in a limited capacity. Others were permitted to open over the following few weeks. While we were all very excited, we followed suit in a decidedly slower pace out of an abundance of caution. We carefully planned each phase of our reopening to ensure we took every possible precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to our senior living community.
During the shutdown, Independent Living visits were restricted to essential needs, medical necessities, or emergencies. On May 8th, residents were able to welcome visitors again, as long as visitors followed all safety protocols set in place. Over the next few months, community spaces and amenities began to open as well. Finally, on September 23rd, we opened our dining room at 50% capacity.
Watching the Food Service and Dining team prepare the dining room for reopening was like watching kids decorate for Christmas – they were overjoyed. We all were!
We continue to remain committed to helping prevent the spread of COVID-19 within our retirement community.
We encourage people not to wait until COVID is over before making a move into senior living. No one is certain how long this will last; it could be months or years.
In the meantime, at Fellowship Square Phoenix, friends and neighbors can enjoy meals together again. While the main dining room isn't open to guests quite yet, friends and families can reserve the private dining room so they can share meals and still maintain 6 feet of physical distance. And for residents who aren't quite ready to eat outside their apartment, we are still delivering meals in person. The Activities Department is going strong, hosting events at regular intervals so group sizes can remain small while still giving everyone an opportunity to attend. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our Facebook page, @fssphoenix
If you are on the fence about whether this is the right time for you or a loved one to make a move, consider all you are missing. As the American actress, Shirley MacLaine once stated, "Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends."
Don't be a stranger; we are always ready to welcome new friends.
At Fellowship Square Phoenix, we are giving safely distanced tours of Independent Living. Tours are limited to a maximum of 2 guests at a time, and we encourage people to schedule theirs in advance. Additionally, we continue to offer virtual tours, both live and on-demand.