Usually (before the coronavirus) I accompany families on tours of appropriate senior living communities. But since mid-March, all outside visitors—families included—have been barred from visiting by State mandate. Business doesn’t stop, however, and most communities have continued to admit new residents, though there are a few communities that have temporarily halted new admissions until they were comfortable with the new protocols required by the pandemic. So what does a tour look like when you can’t actually enter the building?
Most admissions directors are doing tours over video platforms like FaceTime, Zoom and Skype. This doesn’t change the first half of the tour much. That’s the discovery phase, where information regarding the potential resident is shared and the admissions director explains how their community can meet their care needs. Since most of us have become pretty familiar with video chats by this point in the pandemic, this phase of the tour doesn’t feel all that awkward. Next the admissions person will carry their phone or laptop computer around the community, showing off the dining room, activity room, lobby, model room, and other amenities, depending on what shows their community the best. This is only a moderately successful process, because of the shaking of the video screen, and the fact that many common areas aren’t being used during the pandemic, and are often shuttered or blockaded in a less-than-attractive way. Because of the fact residents are being asked to isolate in their rooms, there isn’t much vibrancy in the scenes being shown. Some communities have engaged professional videographers to produce a slick presentation of the building. This has the advantage of seeing things as they might look in “normal” times. But it is a far from perfect substitute for seeing a community in person, seeing the interaction of the staff with residents, smelling the place and generally getting a feel for the community’s personality. After the building tour the admissions person will sit down in their office again and go over pricing and next steps.
“Next steps” have changed somewhat as well. Once a community is chosen, the director of healthcare has to build a file. He or she is responsible for doing an assessment of the resident. But it’s more difficult to “lay eyes” on a prospective resident these days, as they may be in a nursing home after a hospitalization, or in another community where the level of care is no longer sufficient. These are places that don’t allow outside visitors. So FaceTime and Skype are used again in certain circumstances, or the community nurse will just speak directly with the healthcare professional where the prospective resident currently resides. Meanwhile “the file” needs input from the resident’s family, such as doctor’s orders, all current prescriptions, copies of powers of attorney, and lots of state-mandated forms. Even in “normal” times this process is largely done via email, but even more so these days. Finally the resident’s family has to furnish the apartment. Every community handles this differently, with the goal of minimizing extraneous people in the building. Often the family will bring the furniture to the building entrance nearest the apartment, and building staff will move it to the room and set up the apartment. Other times the facility requires certain movers to be engaged.
This is certainly not a perfectly designed replacement for business-as-usual. But everyone is doing the best they can to accommodate the new imperatives required by a pandemic.
Feel free to reach out to us if you have questions regarding senior living for a loved one: Michael Gill, (512) 402-2795.
photo cred: Carmen’s Legacy Productions