At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, news on the struggles of nursing homes to contain the spread was hard to miss. But there are two facts that you may not realize. One, that senior living communities are actually nothing like nursing homes. And two, according to research conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, a majority of senior living communities in the United States had no cases of COVID-19 in 2020 at all. In fact, that research found that residents in some senior living settings were not at any higher risk of death from COVID-19 than those living in private homes. Here’s why.
How Senior Living Differs from Nursing Homes
While there are several ways in which senior living communities differ from nursing homes; three of the most distinct include:
- Care – Nursing homes are for those with medical conditions requiring round-the-clock or specialized care like wound care, intravenous (IV) therapy, injections, and/or catheters, as well as monitoring of vital signs and medical equipment. On the other hand, senior living communities offer different types of care. For example, assisted living regulations require that residents are medically stable, memory care is specifically for those with dementia, and in independent living, no onsite medical care is available.
- Accommodations – Because of the type of care provided, nursing homes are primarily a medical setting. So, the environment feels more like a hospital with residents typically living in smaller rooms, often with a roommate, which makes social distancing extremely difficult. In senior living, communities feature a range of accommodations which may include private apartments or even free-standing cottages which offer ample room to limit exposure.
- Lifestyle – Unlike nursing homes, senior living communities also focus on lifestyle and wellness with a range of conveniences, amenities, and enrichment opportunities available. Even during COVID-19, families can have peace of mind that their loved ones aren’t alone as communities make use of beautiful outdoor spaces, abundant technology options, and the creativity of team members to keep their residents engaged and connected.
Senior Living Compared to Home During COVID-19
Of course, we know it’s one thing to compare the risk of exposure in group settings like senior living communities versus nursing homes. But you likely can’t imagine there would even be a comparison between senior living and home – surely the latter would always be the safest place from COVID-19, right? Not necessarily.
Based on the NORC research we highlighted earlier, not only did 64 percent of U.S. senior living communities collectively have no COVID-19 cases in 2020, of those that did have cases: 67 percent of independent living, 64 percent of assisted living, and 61 percent of memory care communities saw no COVID-19 deaths.
What’s more, the average mortality rate for residents of independent living communities was statistically the same as the mortality rate of the 75-and-over population in corresponding counties in the research, meaning these residents were at no higher risk of death from COVID-19 than those living in private homes.
We think this news is a testament to the rigorous protocols senior living communities like ours have put in place since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic such as:
- Strictly following the most up-to-date local, state, and federal guidelines for cleaning, PPE, and social distancing.
- Making sure residents have everything they need under one roof so they don’t have to come in contact with risky, public touchpoints.
- Limiting access to visitors and performing safety checks for everyone who does enter the community.
- Having associates in place who are experienced with outbreaks and also providing ongoing training as new information becomes available on COVID-19.
Not to mention the fact that senior living residents were among the first to be vaccinated and that we made the vaccine rollout as easy and convenient as possible. At Vitality Living communities, vaccinations were offered in three separate rounds, and nearly all residents received the vaccine. It all speaks to the notion that versus home, senior living communities may actually have a better ability to limit exposure to COVID-19.