Medical experts discuss infection control practices for senior housing

Regulation | June 05, 2020 | by Juliana Bilowich

LeadingAge curated a conversation between housing members and medical experts to discuss infection control practices for senior housing communities.

On June 5th, LeadingAge, LeadingAge Maine/New Hampshire, and the Maine Council on Aging co-hosted a conversation with preventative medicine fellows on how property staff can reduce the spread of COVID-19 in HUD-assisted senior housing communities. During the conversation with senior housing property staff, medical personnel from the Maine Medical Center (MMC) shared distancing and disinfection strategies for affordable housing communities.

Titled “Where Policy Meets Practice: Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in Affordable Senior Housing Communities,” the event was the beginning of a collaboration between LeadingAge housing members, the Maine Council on Aging, and the Maine Medical Center's preventative medicine fellows, who will be following up with providers to offer individualized assistance. 

After providing background information on the virus, MMC preventative medicine fellows Nicoleta Toma and Katherine Nenninger discussed risk levels in congregate senior housing and ideas for reducing virus spread. Toma and Nenninger also addressed a variety of scenarios in response to HUD’s COVID-19 guidance for multifamily housing providers, including exposure reduction while reopening common areas and bringing staff back to working on-site:

  • For general risk reduction at housing sites, the preventative medicine experts shared the principals of both disinfecting and distancing at sites, including different kinds of PPE that can be used by staff and residents.
  • For housing communities evaluating visitor restrictions, the presenters balanced physical health needs with mental needs and encouraged housing communities to explore options to allow for outdoor visitation, distancing visits, and continued service delivery to combat social isolation.
  • For reopening common areas, the presenters shared the survival rates of the virus on different surfaces (like in laundry rooms vs. lobbied). They recommended marking the floor of areas where people stand and encouraged outdoor congregating and constant use of face coverings.
  • For restarting community programming, the presenters emphasized the relative safety of meeting outdoors vs. indoors, and discussed disinfection protocols for items used by groups, like games, bbqs, or benches.
  • For move-ins and move-outs, they shared that communities should continue following standard cleaning protocols of units, and make use of screening questionnaires for movers coming into the building, while also limiting exposure between new and existing residents.
  • For bringing staff back to site and navigating resident interaction, the presenters shared ideas for meeting in larger rooms in order to maintain safe distance, requiring masks before entry into the management office, and disinfecting commonly-touched surfaces.
  • For residents who are Hard of Hearing, they discussed the use of masks made of clear material so that the resident can continue to read lips.
  • For conducting in-unit maintenance and HUD paperwork, they discussed Fair Housing compliant questions that can be asked of residents before entering a unit, and messaging strategies for the community.

A recording will be made available shortly, and LeadingAge is exploring options for hosting similar conversations in other parts of the country.