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How to choose a safe, healthy senior living community

(BPT) – It’s understandable for anyone seeking a retirement community to have concerns about health and safety right now. Today’s unprecedented situation leaves many wondering — is it safe to live in a retirement community during a pandemic?

The good news is, many Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) are taking extraordinary precautions to keep residents healthy, following up-to-date recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), plus local and state authorities.

Recently retired couple Stuart and Anita Smith examined the measures being taken at The Spires at Berry College — a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Rome, Georgia — before making their decision to move in. Because Stuart is a retired physician, he looked closely at their health and safety protocols. He was happy to learn that they followed recommended CDC guidelines stringently, prioritizing the well-being of their residents.

“The community was up front with us about how they were handling it — using masks, a lot of cleaning, safe dining procedures,” explained Stuart. “I think they’ve done everything really well, including daily temperature checks and not letting people bring guests or family members to visit now. I’m very confident in their health and safety protocols.”

If you or a loved one are considering a senior living community, here are important safeguards to look for.

  • Mandatory social distancing in public areas — CDC officials and public health experts agree: Keeping people a minimum of six feet apart helps prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Mandatory facial coverings required in public areas — Face masks have been shown to reduce the spread of the virus, protecting both mask-wearer and anyone near that person from excessive exposure to airborne particles.
  • Mandatory regular COVID-19 testing for all team members, and testing for residents — Testing ensures that any infections are quickly identified so staff or residents who test positive can quarantine.

  • Required temperature and oxygen level checks for all residents, team members and guests — Elevated temperatures and decreased oxygen levels have been identified as common COVID-19 symptoms.

  • Proper handwashing encouraged throughout the day for residents, team members and guests — As with many viruses including colds and flu, frequent, thorough handwashing can reduce the spread of disease.

  • Frequent sanitizing of common areas throughout the day — The presence of the virus on surfaces can be reduced by regular disinfecting.

  • Virtual tours encouraged — To limit visitors to a community, providing virtual online tours is essential.

The Spires at Berry College follows all of these procedures to help keep all residents, staff and visitors safe. The community is also in constant contact with affiliated CCRCs nationwide to share information about improving procedures as more is learned about what works best to successfully reduce risk of illness.

Social and emotional well-being

One of the greatest challenges to retirement communities during this difficult time is the emotional and social isolation many residents are feeling. Look for locations that have amenities such as outdoor areas with walking trails, and have access to digital devices like tablets to stay in touch with friends and family.

The Smiths agree that while they’ve had to remain apart from family right now, they’re still able to socialize to some degree. “We are so comfortable and enjoying the relationships we’re forming,” said Anita. “Two couples can do ‘socially distanced’ dining together, calling back and forth across the dining room. People are finding safe ways to communicate and socialize.”

“And I’m a lot more physically fit than when I came here,” adds Stuart. “We do a lot of walking.”

Safety and comfort at a CCRC

Unlike at home, where outside factors offer unknown risks, residents and families can rest easy knowing there is a team dedicated to keeping them safe and well. Contact is minimized, and there are few reasons to leave the community. For example, doctor visits are conducted on site, so there is no risk of infection sitting in waiting rooms, and groceries or medications are delivered straight to residences.

Exploring a move to a retirement community? Learn more at www.RetireAtBerry.com or call 706-784-7644.

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