Q: What should I consider to safely visit a loved one at a senior living community during the pandemic?
A: Over the last several months, local, state and federal officials have taken many precautions to help keep our communities safe as we work together to contain the spread of COVID-19.
As we continue to proceed with caution, it is especially important to take extra safety precautions when you are around those who may be more susceptible to contracting the virus, due to older age or existing health conditions. If you or a family member is planning to visit a loved one at a senior living community, once visitation is again permitted, be sure to take into account the following considerations.
Be informed of up-to-date safety measures. We must remain mindful of safety guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. These organizations can serve as a starting point for up-to-date safety recommendations, such as tips for making an effective mask, effective handwashing technique, as well as suggestions for a safe, enjoyable and socially distanced visit. Be sure to check the website of the senior living organization that you are visiting to learn about any community-specific procedures before you arrive.
Be mindful of your own health. If you are feeling ill in any way – listen to your body, take necessary precautions, and stay home. Be sure to also be mindful of your recent travels. If you have visited an area that is considered high risk, or if you have been in contact with someone who has contracted the virus, stay home. Virtually spending time with the senior citizen in your life is the best approach if you are feeling under the weather, whether you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or anything else.
Be aware of your surroundings. Being mindful is key when being on campus at a senior living community. Be sure to wear a mask upon arrival. If possible, avoid touching any communal surfaces, such as handrails, doors and light switches. If you happen to come in contact with these surfaces, be sure to thoroughly wash your hands. And, as difficult as it might be, remain socially distant (six feet away) from your loved one. If the opportunity arises, spending time outdoors in the fresh air is best at helping reduce the potential spread of the virus.
After all, we are all in this together. Taking all safety precautions into account before visiting a senior living community can protect the health of your loved one and that person’s friends. Be sure to contact the senior living community ahead of time to ensure that you can safely visit.
Donald Brislin is the medical director at Wesley Enhanced Living Doylestown.