(Alexandria, Va.) – In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation and loneliness for senior living residents have risen as visitation from loved ones has been curtailed.
Social isolation in older adults is well-documented to increase risk of premature death—as harmful as high blood pressure, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. But COVID-19 is also a significant risk: 8 out of 10 virus deaths have been people 65 and older, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Essential Caregiver (EC) program has become a flexible, workable, and beneficial solution toward reducing risks of both these health hazards for older adults in senior living communities. It can allow for controlled visitation even in areas where many restrictions are in place.
To help in consideration, planning, and implementation of this solution, Argentum developed the Essential Caregiver Toolkit. Argentum, a national association representing senior living companies that care for the nearly two million older Americans who reside in professionally managed, resident-centered senior living communities, quickly assembled a representative workgroup to create an immediately useful, concise collection of guidance and documents.
“As the pandemic continues, our concerns about the health effects isolation has on residents have rapidly increased,” James Balda, president and CEO of Argentum. “We saw the need to take the lead in addressing these significant mental health risks in older adults and offer guidance for consideration.”
As EC programs are being adopted by more states—recently including Indiana, Minnesota, and Oklahoma—the Essential Caregiver Toolkit provides support needed for communities and operators to establish programs that best suit their environment and residents.
The Oklahoma Assisted Living Association and Oklahoma’s State Ombudsman both participated in the workgroup that built the Essential Caregiver Toolkit.
“This toolkit will help facilitate a quick response for senior living providers to implement an Essential Caregiver program, which will reduce the feeling of isolation that residents are experiencing during COVID-19 lockdowns implemented to keep seniors safe,” said Melissa Holland, executive director, Oklahoma Assisted Living Association. “I am beyond thankful for Argentum’s support in providing this workgroup and resource for my members.”
Oklahoma State Ombudsman Bill Whited agrees that the toolkit is an essential resource: “Keeping strong connections with family and friends makes for a better quality of life.”
The resulting Essential Caregiver Toolkit defines the terms and sets the boundaries of an EC program, including:
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