As the pandemic stretches on, it’s clear that COVID-19 will continue to be an issue for the foreseeable future. The hope that the summer heat would offer a reprieve from the virus was replaced by concerns over what the approaching fall – and flu season – could bring.
Nowhere is that more acutely felt than in nursing homes and long-term care facilities where residents are medically compromised and live in close quarters. Knowing that close contact is one way that viruses are spread, anyone considering moving a loved one to a nursing home or assisted living community may naturally feel anxious.
However, not all care facilities are the same nor do they carry the same risk. Care practices and protocols are important, but facility design is just as important for reducing the spread of infections. Recent research suggests facilities that offer a household model rather than a traditional institutional model are better suited to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses.
Traditional Facility Design Can Contribute to the Spread of COVID-19
In May, The New York Times published an article that explored how the design of traditional senior living facilities, like those with semi-private rooms and large communal spaces, contributes to the spread of COVID-19 in care facilities.
They discovered what we already knew: facilities with a household model are better equipped to help reduce the spread of infections like COVID-19, seasonal flu and even the common cold. In addition to providing residents with more comfort, freedom, privacy and independence, a household model can be an asset for protecting residents and staff during a pandemic.
When most people think about nursing homes and assisted living facilities, they imagine long corridors with resident rooms and large areas for dining, therapy and activities. This is common at many centers and what we refer to as an institutional or traditional model of care.
In this model, semi-private rooms (where each resident has a roommate) are common, but sometimes three or four people may share a single room. Communal dining rooms and activities spaces bring large groups of residents together and in close contact with one another. In addition, nurses, caregivers and support staff come and go – patient to patient, room to room and floor to floor.
All of these elements together make it easy to see why COVID-19 can spread quickly through traditional nursing homes and assisted living facilities. As a result, when a resident tests positive for COVID, it can be challenging to prevent it from spreading to others, let alone contain it to a single room or floor.
Now, let’s compare an institutional model to a household design. Rather than a long hallway with many resident rooms and large communal common areas, residents live in small households that offer private suites with private baths along with a household kitchen, dining room, den and a consistent team of caregivers.
This model not only allows for privacy and comfort in a home-like environment, it promotes health and safety by helping to reduce the risk of exposure, cross-contamination and spread of COVID-19 and other viruses. Should a resident get sick, they can easily be cared for in the comfort and privacy of their own suite. Because each household is self-contained and has a dedicated staff, it also becomes easier to maintain proper social distancing and mitigate further spread.
Deciding Where and When a Loved One Should Get Care
As the pandemic continues, you may have concerns about placing a loved one in a facility. However, don’t let your concerns stop you from finding care for your loved one when they need it. Instead, look for a facility with a clear commitment to health, safety and environmental design.
Additionally, ask about:
- Protocols and processes for dealing with a positive COVID-19 case or a cluster of cases
- If they’ve had any COVID-19 cases, as well as how many and when, and if so how the cases were handled
- Visitation policies for allowing families to visit residents during the pandemic
Designed to Promote Health, Safety and Comfort
At The Ganzhorn Suites, our purpose-built design offers small households each with its own kitchen, dining area, den and laundry room. Our 64 private suites include private baths and are divided within four households, each serving various stages of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
These households are built around beautiful courtyards that provide a therapeutic outdoor experience and support proper social distancing and safe family visits. The combination of these purpose-built spaces and convenient access to the outdoors promotes health, comfort and independence while also providing a safe and easy-to-navigate environment ideal for these challenging times.
Schedule a virtual tour to learn more about our memory care facility and how we provide a safe and nurturing environment.