As we all know by now, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the entire world and has reached across all demographics, but among those most affected were older adults. While cases of Covid-19 are more equally spread throughout the population, the rate of hospitalizations and deaths have hit the older population hardest. According to numbers gathered by Statista in their report titled “Covid-19 impact on Older Adults in the U.S.”, as of October 2021, a staggering 94% of total Covid-19 deaths in the United States are among adults aged 50 and older.
When the Centers for Disease Control issued the warning in March 2020 for older adults to stay home as much as possible and the world began learning very quickly that Covid-19 posed the biggest threat to the elderly, our care homes, along with other assisted living communities and congregate living facilities and hospitals went on a full lock down to try and protect our most vulnerable residents and staff. As a home who prided ourselves on our open door policy for family, friends and community members to visit as often as they’d like, having to shut out the world for an indefinite period of time was difficult. Our residents got so much from having family and friends visit regularly and Covid really took that gift away from them quite abruptly. Truly, it was really a challenging thing to have to maneuver – while keeping people out certainly helped protect them physically, it did have a detrimental effect on their mental and emotional health. According to Statista, while 27% of older adults felt isolated and lonely before the pandemic, 56% of older adults felt lonely and isolated during the pandemic. The same study also found that 28% felt worse anxiety or worry, 19% experienced worse sleep and 19% developed worse depression or sadness. While these numbers don’t specify if the elderly person was living on their own or in an assisted living facility, I believe across the board (regardless of their living situation) the mental and emotional health have certainly been affected. In the bigger assisted living facilities, residents weren’t allowed to leave their rooms; all meals were brought to them directly and interacting with other people wasn’t an option. Covid-19 severely impacted a lot of the bigger congregate living facilities, so staff had to take extreme measures to try and prevent the contagion from spreading throughout the facility.
Fortunately, in a smaller home-like environment, it was a little easier to institute the precautions and best practices. Our residents were able to go about the home and still have some interactions with their fellow housemates and staff. The Grace Living team worked (and continue to work) really hard to keep everything clean and sanitized, and strictly followed our Covid-19 protocols. They also tried to interact with them more to try and fill in the gap for family and friends that had to be shut out for an indefinite period of time. While our residents couldn’t have visitors, we utilized technology by using Facetime, zoom meetings and even drive-by or window visitation. It was a group effort and thankfully, so far, we have been able to keep Covid-19 out of our homes.
It was and still is a team effort, with the cooperation of our residents being key to that effort. Since the shut down and all throughout the various stages of lockdown we’ve all had to endure, our residents have been so resilient and cooperative with everything. Although our residents with dementia needed to be reminded of the current pandemic from time to time, overall, they were all happy to comply with whatever we needed them to do to keep them safe and healthy.
Thankfully, by the summer of 2020, CDC guidelines relaxed slightly in that we were allowed to have modified outdoor visitation. And once Covid-19 vaccines became available, we were fortunate to be part of the Federal Pharmacy Program with CVS and Walgreens to come directly to the home and administer the vaccine. I will never forget how excited and giddy our residents were during our first on-site vaccination clinic. The staff, too, were equally excited as it gave them a chance to breathe a little easier knowing we all had an extra layer of protection against this scary virus. Finally, after months and months of worry and stressing out about Covid, we all felt extremely relieved.
Although there has been some vaccine hesitancy in our nation, our home had 100% participation from residents and staff. By February 2021, both of our care homes were fully vaccinated and one month ago, we all received our booster shots thanks to the help of the Ventura Public Health Department. Flu shots were also recently administered in-house to residents and staff thanks to our home health partners.
As of November 18, 2021, out of the 58.9% of the total US population that have been fully vaccinated, 86.1% are adults ages 65 years old and above; More locally, in California, 84.4% of adults 65 years old and above have been vaccinated (Vermont currently leads the pack in the U.S. with 98.4% of that demographic being fully vaccinated).
As we approach into 21 months into this pandemic, it is my hope that we as a nation can continue to move forward and collectively work towards truly getting past this Covid-19 pandemic. With the winter months just around the corner, it is so important to do what we can to protect ourselves and one another.
I want to highlight the incredible and heroic work of the healthcare professionals, the phenomenal work of scientists and innovators who have help devise the necessary tools we need to win this battle, the countless acts of love given by caregivers everywhere, the dedication of the service industry and of course, the elderly in our community whose resilience and determination to stay as healthy and safe as possible should certainly be commended. Our residents in our care homes have been through so much in their lives and when faced with this new challenge of Covid, they rose to the occasion and have been so resilient. Truly, we all have so much for which to be thankful during this Thanksgiving holiday. While it is becoming more evident that our goal isn’t necessarily to be able to eradicate Covid completely, the “new normal” we are all being called towards is learning how to live with Covid-19 in our lives -- but in such a way that is safe and still live-giving and worthwhile. Our journey with Covid-19 continues and we strive daily to work as a community to get through this current challenge and any challenges that lie ahead. Together, we can.