The first sizeable outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S. occurred at a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington. Since then, reports the NY Times, the virus has found its way into 7,500 long-term care facilities across the country, infecting 143,000 residents and workers, 26,000 of whom died. That’s nearly a third of all corona virus-related deaths.

In the wake of this global pandemic, families across the country are questioning whether a facility is the right choice for their aging loved ones. Research tells us that seniors fear the loss of independence more than death. Aging in place allows the senior to maintain a level of independence in their own home. The pandemic has clearly communicated that home is the safest place to be, and home care makes this a viable option. If you’re faced with making this decision, here are seven considerations to keep in mind.


Sanitation Considerations

Exposure to germs and bacteria is more likely in an environment filled with aging residents who likely have weaker immune systems. According to the CDC, as many as 380,000 residents die from infections in long-term care facilities each year. Their physical design—residents in close proximity, long, narrow hallways, and shared spaces—makes them more susceptible to the spread of infection. Any facility you’re considering for an aging loved one should have adequate, well-trained staff to care for residents and the ability to enforce rigorous infection control and food sanitation.


Emotional Considerations

Moving out of a long-time home and away from cherished friends and routines can be difficult for seniors. In fact, an Aging Care article suggests that up to 40% of nursing home residents experience mild to chronic depression. While family visits can have a positive effect on seniors’ physical and emotional health, restrictions such as those currently being implemented to lower the risk of coronavirus exposure may increase depressive symptoms. A lack of visits from loved ones can create a sense of abandonment in seniors that can lead to weight loss, depression, and disruptive behavior. Aging in place gives seniors and their loved ones more control over length and frequency of visits.


Social Considerations

Leisure activities like reading, playing board games, and dancing are linked to a lower risk of dementia. And older adults who participate in social or productive activities such as cooking or gardening may live longer than those who do not. While many facilities offer residents a number of activities, numerous studies have shown that these tend to be marred by a lack of engagement, inadequate stimulation, and passive participation. Aging seniors are integral to our communities and have an enormous impact, both economically and socially, on our society. It’s a misconception to think that seniors only want to socialize with other seniors. Aging in place allows seniors to maintain relationships with children, grandchildren, other relatives, and friends within their neighborhoods and larger communities. Even with stay-at-home orders, seniors who age in place have more control over their social activities and can continue to visit with loved ones at a safe distance, take walks, or work in their garden.


Environmental Considerations

The peace that comes with living in familiar surroundings is an important component of our overall health. That may be why the majority of seniors want to remain in their homes as they age, according to AARP research. Our homes offer us a sense of security and comfort. Having to leave that familiarity can be incredibly stressful, especially for aging seniors who are deeply connected to their family home. Seniors who retain control over their routines, activities, and life decisions feel a greater sense of purpose. Assisted living facilities take much of that independence away, making seniors dependent on staff members whose attention is divided among many residents. Aging at home allows seniors to hold onto their privacy and sense of dignity, both of which they risk losing in a long-term care facility.


Safety Considerations

Family visits do more than improve seniors’ emotional wellbeing. Regular visits are critical for monitoring a loved one’s quality of care in a facility. With visits curtailed and staff absenteeism rising, the quality of care – already low in many facilities – is likely to decline further. Especially during a crisis, facilities can be understaffed which leads to unsafe or negligent conditions. Common hazards at long-term care facilities include poor lighting, obstructed walkways, and inadequate handrails in bathrooms. These fall risks can lead to serious injuries for seniors. Whether your loved one lives in their own home or in a long-term care facility, there should be adequate safety precautions in place to protect them.


Care Considerations

Some seniors require around-the-clock medical care or supervision. Aging adults who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s may no longer be able to live in their own homes. There are some red flags to watch for that can help you determine whether aging in place is a viable option.


Budget Considerations

The monthly cost of living in a long-term care facility is staggering. According to a 2019 Cost of Care Survey, the national median price is just over $4000 a month for a shared room and $8500 a month for a private room. These costs have been increasing steadily by about three percent a year since 2014. According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, seniors who choose to age in place can save thousands of dollars per month in care costs. Seniors have several options when it comes to paying for non-medical home care services, from long-term care policies to the VA Pension with Aid and Attendance Benefit.


No industry was prepared for a pandemic of this magnitude. But as we begin to recover it’s worth considering how the long-term care industry must evolve and adapt to better protect both residents and staff. Until then, aging in place with home care services is a viable alternative for seniors who are capable of managing daily tasks with some assistance.


Veterans Care Coordination’s mission is to improve the quality of life for Veterans and their families. We partner with quality home care providers to help navigate the VA’s process of applying for and maximizing VA pension funds, getting care started as quickly as possible, and ensuring that those approved for the benefit are able to maintain their eligibility for as long as needed. For more information click here or call 855-380-4400.

About Kyle Laramie, Founder & CEO

Kyle founded Veterans Care Coordination in April 2011. As its founder and CEO of VCC, Kyle is driven by the memory of his grandfather, a World War II Veteran who unnecessarily missed out on essential VA benefits because Kyle’s family wasn’t aware of available opportunities. In recognition of his impact in leadership, Kyle was named to the St. Louis Business Journal’s prestigious “40 Under 40” list and St. Louis Small Business Monthly’s “100 St. Louisans to Know” in 2014. VCC was named a St. Louis Small Business Monthly “Top 20” small business and a finalist for the St. Louis Post Dispatch Top Workplace (2015-2022), St. Louis Business Journal Best Place to Work (2019 & 2022), and the Arcus Awards (2014). The team has served more than 14,000 Veteran clients and their families. Kyle frequently speaks on Veterans’ benefits, addressing conferences such as the Home Care Association of America and Decision Health. He is passionate about giving back and has built a charitable-minded organization that supports various philanthropic efforts.