Senior Living Safety: Get Your Top 10 Questions Answered

Amid the ongoing pandemic and anxiety about vaccinations, you may be wondering if you should postpone moving a loved one to assisted living – even if they need care and assistance now.

The decision to move to assisted living or wait it out is motivated by the unique circumstances of each family. Some families have few options for providing care, especially if they work out of the home. Others may be compelled to provide care at home, but struggle with the emotion and energy it requires.

The experts at Sonata Senior Living have answered the most commonly asked questions about senior living safety during the coronavirus pandemic to make the decision easier for you.

1. Should I wait until the coronavirus pandemic is over to move a loved one into assisted living?

Don’t delay moving a loved one into assisted living, advises Lorrie Kovac, RN, BSN, and Sonata Senior Living’s Director of Resident Care. If you have a loved one in need of assistance, making arrangements for proper care now can prevent an unplanned and unwanted health event, such as a fall in the home.

Allowing a loved one to remain at home alone or struggle with activities of daily living (ADLs) comes with its own set of risks. Senior living and care communities, including assisted living facilities, have implemented strict safety guidelines and infection prevention and control protocols to protect residents and staff. In fact, it is their first and foremost priority.

2. Should I wait until there is a vaccine before moving a loved one into assisted living?

No. In fact, there are advantages to moving earlier! According to the Governor of Florida in a Nov. 19, 2020, news release, the vaccine may be available in the next couple months. That’s not all! Long-term care facilities, including assisted living communities, will have access to the vaccine earlier than the general public. This means that assisted living and memory care assisted living residents will receive the Covid-19 vaccine well before older adults living in private homes.

3. Are visitors allowed into assisted living communities during the coronavirus pandemic?

State regulations, policies and procedures vary, but according to the CDC, anyone with symptoms of Covid-19 should not be permitted to enter a senior living facility.

In Florida, visitation restrictions have been created at the direction of Governor Ron DeSantis and Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz to keep those most vulnerable to the disease safe from community spread.

At this time, general visitation is permitted in long-term care facilities given the community complies with the guidelines outlined in the Governor’s Executive Orders. Since orders are issued in response to the evolving state of the pandemic, it is important to access the latest information regarding regulations at

4. Which is safer – assisted living or home care?

The short answer is, it depends. If caregivers in the home—whether that be an adult child, spouse or home health aide—are able to strictly adhere to CDC recommendations and take transmission-based precautions at home, then care in a private home setting is safe. But according to senior care experts, that is not always the case. Family members tend to let down their guard in the home, which may inadvertently expose someone in their care.

Caregivers in the home are more often than not coming from another destination like work or the grocery store thereby placing the older adults in their care at risk of exposure. Alternatively, assisted living communities have well established infection prevention and control guidelines, which ensure a higher level of sanitation measures in the environment that cannot be easily duplicated in the home without a dedicated staff. Enhanced safety protocols coupled with 24-hour supervision and care often times make assisted living the safer choice.

5. Is my loved one safe in assisted living during a hurricane?

In Florida, it is difficult to talk about senior living safety without mention of hurricanes. That’s because more storms make landfall in Florida than any other U.S. state. For this reason and others, senior living and care communities in Florida are more far more prepared than any other type of 55+ adult housing or senior care setting.

Senior living providers such as Sonata Senior Living have established formal Hurricane and Disaster Preparedness Plans based on recommendations from the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM). These plans are designed to ensure assisted living residents have access to a week’s supply of food and water in case delivery service were interrupted as well as essential power, lighting and air conditioning in the event of a power outage.

The presence of multiple communities throughout the state of Florida makes certain your loved ones have safe refuge in the rare case a hurricane event requires mandatory evacuation. With 12 senior living communities offering reinforced construction, expanded generator capacity and 24-hour staffing during a storm, Sonata Senior Living is one of the safest places to be during a hurricane.

6. What kind of safety training is provided to your staff?

All staff members have received training in senior care and support, but Sonata staff receive ongoing education and training on infection control procedures to prevent influenza and other infectious diseases, including Covid-19.

As part of our Sonata Safe signature program, all staff have been trained on standard and transmission-based precautions, sanitation practices, handwashing and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). Additionally, all staff have been trained on visitor screening criteria and daily resident screening protocols, including recognizing the symptoms of Covid-19 and quarantine protocols.

At Serenades Memory Care, dementia-certified caregivers receive special training and education on how the brain changes and why performing tasks, thinking, reasoning and processing is more challenging for people with dementia. Caregivers are trained in Teepa Snow’s Positive Approach™ to Care program, a nationally renowned program which uses research-based care and management techniques to encourage independence in those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

7. How does Sonata Senior Living ensure the safety of residents?

At Sonata, ensuring our staff and residents are in a safe and healthy environment is our foremost priority. Safety systems have always been strictly enforced at Sonata Senior Living. When Covid-19 emerged as a public health pandemic, our existing safety systems were expanded to include community-wide use of personal protective equipment (PPE), symptom screening, social distancing practices, heightened sanitation and rapid response protocols. Each of these measures reflect local, state and federal recommendations and mandates as well as Sonata’s operational best practices. When disease immunity is attained, safety systems will remain in place, but evolve to reflect new precautions based on the latest CDC recommendations.

8. How often is the environment sanitized?

At Sonata, everyone is responsible for sanitizing and disinfecting surfaces to ensure a safe and healthy environment for residents and staff. For optimal safety, heightened sanitation protocols include frequent disinfection of commonly touched surfaces such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, faucets, handrails, tables and multi-use items using an EPA-approved disinfectant.

Sonata’s kitchen staff, activity staff, health care personnel, concierge and housekeeping services – all associates are required to disinfect the environment throughout the day. Activity staff is required to sanitize all areas and equipment before and after group activities. All employees are required to clean their hands before and after any interaction with residents. Hand washing is required by all staff using alcohol-based soap that contains at least 60% alcohol. Soap is always stocked in sink areas and hand sanitizers are supplied in common areas.

9. How can you be sure the environment is safe from viruses?

Sonata Senior Living has invested in special technology to ensure another layer of safety. Electrostatic disinfection is used in addition to traditional sanitation methods for extra coverage.

Electrostatic cleaning represents the cutting edge of modern cleaning technology and ensures the best results from any cleaning routine. It uses a specialized solution that is combined with air and atomized by an electrode inside the sprayer. Subsequently, the spray contains positively charged particles that are able to aggressively adhere to surfaces and objects, including awkwardly shaped objects. Because the particles in the spray are positively charged, they cling to and evenly coat surfaces. The result is more effective than other methods because it ensures an even coating of the cleaning solution across all surfaces, including those that are hard to reach with traditional or manual cleaning methods.

10. Is anyone with Covid-19 allowed to move into Sonata?

A clinical screening tool is used prior to admitting any new residents and anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 is not allowed to move into Sonata Senior Living.

New residents must first pass Sonata’s strict screening criteria which requires two consecutive negative Covid-19 test results separated by 24 hours. Residents will not be allowed to enter a Sonata community if they have been hospitalized with the last 14 days unless they have a negative Covid-19 test or a physician statement stating they are free from communicable disease within 48 hours prior to admission.

Additionally, Sonata created a Rapid Response task force to quickly and safely respond to a resident or team member testing positive for pandemic illnesses. Should we experience a suspected case in any of our communities, all necessary supplies are on hand and all team members are trained to respond according to CDC, state, and local recommended guidelines, including strict quarantine procedures that will protect the health and well-being of all residents.

As part of our ongoing commitment safety, Sonata is committed to full transparency of any confirmed Covid-19 cases within a community.

Safe Touring Practices

There is nothing more important to senior living communities than ensuring the safety of their residents. At Sonata Senior Living in Florida, we follow all state and federal guidelines for symptom screening, enhanced sanitation and social distancing. Sonata Senior Living in Florida also offers tours of our communities using safe touring practices.

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