With the pandemic still going strong and in some cases, getting worse, flu season is stirring a lot of fear this year. Because older adults and immunocompromised individuals are the most at risk during this time, senior living communities are taking the health and wellness of their residents and staff very seriously.
Here's how independent and assisted living facilities are preparing to protect residents during the 2021 flu season and COVID-19 pandemic.
Why the flu is especially dangerous during the pandemic
The flu is already a major health threat to seniors, but it's especially dangerous in the coronavirus era. Older adults are more susceptible to this unique "twindemic" — the combined infection of COVID-19 and influenza.
According to Supriya Narasimhan, MD, MS (Epi) at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, it is indeed possible to get both the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously, and there have been multiple such cases reported.
At this time, experts are not sure the frequency at which co-infection occurs but the dangers are prevalent, but those who experience it face an increased probability of more serious illness, the potential for longer hospital stays, and a greater chance of flu and COVID-related complications, Dr. Narasimhan said in an interview with Verywell Health.
How senior living communities are preparing for flu season
Flu season and COVID-19 are two issues senior living facilities are taking extra caution with this year. To help their residents stay safe, here are some best practices many of them are following.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is being worn by all staff members. Keeping residents safe begins with staff. Each staff member is supplied with and is using all PPE such as face masks and gloves along with practicing proper hand hygiene.
Staff and residents have access to vaccines. Seniors and healthcare workers have been given priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine, and senior living communities are encouraging vaccination for both coronavirus and influenza.
Frequent testing is available. Because COVID-19 may not present any symptoms, frequent testing is a must and is made available to staff and residents of senior living communities. Testing has also been made available for influenza.
Education is ongoing. Staff has been educated on the various dangers surrounding the "twindemic" and are being informed on what the proper protocols are to minimize risk. This education includes but is not limited to the various procedures surrounding isolation precautions, how to practice proper hand hygiene, and how to properly use their PPE.
Visitation is strictly monitored. Communities that are allowed to accept general visitors require anyone entering the premises to undergo strict health screening procedures and maintain proper hygiene and social distancing.
Daily screenings have been made part of a new routine. COVID-19 symptom checks have been made part of a daily screening processing.
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