Support for Individuals Residing in Senior Living Communities

By Rev. Beth Long-Higgins  •  March 24, 2020

During the past two weeks, those of us who provide services for older adults who live in or need the supports and services of senior living communities, have seen more changes to our usual regulations than ever before. These changes have come from the Centers for Disease Control, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and governors and health departments at the state and local levels. The restrictions apply directly to those who live in our communities’ licensed neighborhoods — long-term care, memory care, short-term rehabilitation and assisted living. But we also must balance the well-being of the entire community, including older adults living in independent apartments and cottages.

Here are some things to consider as you think about your loved ones and members of your congregations who live in these communities.

Staff and Visitors

Only essential staff are allowed in the building after being screened for symptoms, including documenting each person’s temperature as normal. We can’t forbid visitors to independent-living residences (cottages and patio homes – not apartments in buildings where assisted-living residents also live), but please use caution if you must visit. If it is vital that someone enters the home of an independent living resident, it might be best to have only one family member do so for the duration of the pandemic. Preferably, this person would also have limited access to others when they are out in the rest of the world during this time. And this individual must stop visiting if they experience any symptoms of COVID-19.

Greetings Through Windows

You can see many pictures on the internet of relatives standing outside the window of their love one’s room or apartment. Please contact the community’s staff before doing this. For residents who live in memory care neighborhoods or those who may like to wander, seeing people outside the window might encourage them to leave. Staff will be happy to help you find ways to communicate with your loved one that don’t introduce added confusion or disruption to their world.

Gift Giving

If you wish to give items to your loved one or provide resources for the community at-large, again, please contact staff. We have compiled a list of suggestions to share with you. We will plan to meet you outside to receive gifts, and we will distribute them per your request(s).

Virtual Visitor Guide

At each of our communities, we will be employing a virtual visitor guide who will coordinate FaceTime and Zoom calls between residents and their family and loved ones. This can include visits from pastors and members of the resident’s congregation. Each community is being equipped with an iPad, and these visits can be scheduled by calling the community receptionist.

Resident Safety

Our goal is to keep residents as safe as possible. These are extraordinary times, and the rules for living shift daily. Please be patient as we navigate this new normal while also providing the support and continuity of relationships that you, residents and staff all need.

Let us know if you have any suggestions or ideas, and we will try to accommodate you. United Church Homes is committed to finding new ways to honor special occasions, from celebrating resident birthdays to observing religious holidays, amid this pandemic. Thanks for your partnership in helping to preserve the safety and well-being of everyone who lives and works in our communities.

About the Author

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins

Rev. Beth Long-Higgins is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, musician, fiber artist and mother of two adult children.

View all articles by Rev. Beth Long-Higgins