There is no doubt that the Covid-19 Pandemic has caused heightened concern and worry for those who have aging parents or loved ones.  Numerous headlines and news stories have been written about the outsized impact the virus has had on the elderly. But that doesn’t mean all facilities are dangerous places for residents. Let’s look at the differences between the so-called “big box” facilities and smaller assisted living communities.

Small Communities = Less Risk

In general, smaller communities equal less risk. Fewer residents mean a lower probability of coming into contact with infected individuals.  This environment also fosters real friendships rather than passing acquaintances in larger, more institutional-like facilities where residents feel more like a number. Also, larger operations have more “things” that get dirty or contaminated – more wheelchairs, more walkers, more oxygen tubes. These are all potential vectors for an infection that must be meticulously cleaned and properly maintained to avoid unnecessary risks.

Caregiver to Resident Ratios

Knowing that your loved one has a group of caregivers genuinely concerned for their wellbeing is a great relief. With staff to resident ratios that sometimes exceed, 1:18, it’s difficult to imagine how that can happen in a large facility. That’s why smaller, more personal senior assisted living communities thrive. Their ratios rarely exceed 1 staff member to 5 residents, allowing for real connection and concern for your mom or dad during these trying times.

Size of Operations Matters

When looking at various options for your loved one’s long term care, understand that with larger sized operations – so-called “big box” facilities – comes larger numbers of people who could come into contact with residents, increasing the chances of exposure to infection. Visitors who come to see other individuals in the facility could unwittingly contaminate the communal areas while non-staff members, such as maintenance teams and contractors, could potentially bring in dangerous pathogens on their equipment and tools.  While all senior care operations will have crews come in and out, the smaller residential assisted living communities have a distinct advantage due to their size.

Making a Safer Choice

Considering all the factors above, what can you do to ensure that your loved one receives safe, loving, and effective care while a resident in an assisted living community?

  • Ask about their safety protocols, including what sanitation measures they undertake daily and weekly
  • How are sick residents cared for? Do they see a doctor first or go straight to the hospital? Are you notified of their condition within a certain timeframe?
  • Are caregivers required to use PPE, or personal protective equipment?
  • Can family visit a sick resident in a special room that’s isolated from others?

The questions and their answers can help you determine what type of environment your loved one might experience. In particular, senior assisted living communities can be a better choice overall due to their smaller size, cleaning protocols, attention to detail, and unique connection to each resident. These factors can guide you when the time comes to find mom or dad a new home away from home, and give you the confidence you need during these stressful times.