Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, nursing homes and assisted living centers have been forced to choose between two difficult options:
- Risk exposing elderly residents to the coronavirus.
- Prevent them from seeing their loved ones.
Not seeing loved ones, especially around the holidays, can be heartbreaking. And for seniors living in long-term care facilities, the impact is even greater. Recent research on the impact of COVID-19 nursing home restrictions found that regular visits are central to the well-being of seniors and visitors alike. One study from 2009 even found that lack of regular visitations is “harmful to both the physical and psychological well-being of residents and can lead to excess mortality risk.”
On the other hand, having an elderly family member contract coronavirus is distressing too. After all, senior citizens have the highest risk of having harmful symptoms of the virus due to their age and weaker immune systems.
This is especially true for elderly people living in long-term care facilities. Since the start of the pandemic, nursing homes have had a huge number of outbreaks. As a result, nursing home residents have suffered over 40% of the world’s COVID-related deaths.
So, nursing homes are between a rock and a hard place.
Restricting visitation protects seniors from COVID-19 but increases the risk of other serious health threats.
The choice is difficult.
But what if long-term care facilities didn’t have to choose?
Safe Family Visits for Seniors During COVID-19
There are two main ways that nursing homes can allow seniors to see their loved ones without increasing their residents’ risk of contracting COVID-19.
The first is to have seniors leave the nursing home when they want to see family. This option has one main benefit: visitors will not enter the nursing home. So fewer seniors will be exposed to outsiders who might have the virus.
However, this option has several downsides:
- Lack of care for the elderly outside the nursing home. Many families are not prepared to host their senior relatives for extended amounts of time. They may not have the training to give their elderly relatives the essential care that they normally receive at the nursing home.
- Travel challenges. Traveling to and from the nursing home can be hard. After all, many seniors use electric wheelchairs to get around. So families must find vehicles that can fit wheelchairs inside. Often, these kinds of vehicles are expensive to rent, and rarely service on or around holidays.
- Post-visit quarantine. More challenges await once the visit ends. For example, many nursing homes require senior residents to quarantine in their rooms for up to two weeks upon their return — socially isolating themselves for weeks in exchange for one short visit with their family.
Thankfully, there is a better solution. The alternative is that loved ones visit seniors at the nursing home safely. And that’s where COVID visiting centers can help!
COVID Visiting Centers for Long-Term Care Facilities
A COVID visiting center is a portable structure that is set up outside of a main long-term care facility. One entrance of the visiting center is located near or connected to the main building, for senior residents to access. Then, another entrance lets visitors in directly from outside. The heating, ventilation, air-conditioning (HVAC) system for the visiting center is separate from that of the main long-term care facility, eliminating the risk of airborne transfer of pathogens to the other residents of the care facility.
With this setup, families can visit their elderly relatives in-person at a safe distance without walking through the entire nursing home. As a result, other seniors won’t have harmful and needless exposure to outsiders.
Ways to Use COVID Visiting Centers
A single COVID visitor center offers a variety of uses for long-term care facilities. Here are a few ways they can improve the well-being of senior residents.
For many seniors living in nursing homes, regular visits from family and friends are part of a routine that is central to their health. Thankfully, COVID visitor centers help maintain this routine without sacrificing safety.
Even just one COVID visiting center can host family visits for several senior residents each day. This small change will allow for a priceless interaction for both the elderly and their loved ones.
Before the pandemic, many nursing homes often hosted special programs for their residents. For example, nursing homes may have had the following:
- Religious services. Clergy or other religious figures visit with seniors one-on-one for special religious services.
- Craft classes. Volunteers from the community guide seniors through craft projects that let them have fun, learn new trades, and keep their motor skills intact.
- Live performances. Whether it’s Christmas carolers or a small instrumental concert, live performances keep seniors’ spirits high.
- Guest speakers. Seniors can keep their thinking sharp and learn new things by listening to speakers present on various topics.
These programs keep the elderly’s spirits high (and even help them maintain motor and cognitive skills). Going from such an enriching environment to a secluded one can mean setbacks in these important areas of health.
However, with a COVID visiting center, these events will not have to come to a halt. Instead, they can continue on a smaller and safer scale.
Research for Senior Health
Researchers working on treatments related to senior health conditions like Alzheimer’s disease often visit nursing homes to work with elderly volunteers. But a large number of studies have come to a halt because of COVID-19 visitor restrictions. This can delay important medical discoveries that help senior populations.
However, COVID visitor centers can be used as a safe clinical testing room. Researchers can give assessments or carry out clinical interventions in a safe one-on-one environment. This helps important research relevant to senior health continue to progress safely.
[Related: Setting Up a Drive-Through Testing Station]
Benefits of Fabric Structures for COVID Visiting Centers
Building a COVID visitors center is quick and easy with fabric structures, like those from BLU-MED Response Systems®. Here are some of the benefits fabric structures offer over others.
Quick and Simple Setup
First, nursing homes don’t have to worry about adding a brick-and-mortar addition to their building. That kind of construction is time-consuming since it has to be designed and built by hand, brick-by-brick.
Finding a fast solution for seniors and their families to see each other is the goal. And fabric structures offer the ideal solution.
You can set up fabric structures on any level surface in a matter of minutes. Plus, you won’t have to hire a construction crew. You'll only need a small group of people to install the structure. With fabric structures, your COVID visitors center will be up and running in no time.
Durable for Long-Term Use
Having a durable structure is important for the safety of seniors and their visitors. When there are harsh weather conditions, the structure should keep everyone inside safe.
Unfortunately, tents and pop-up canopies are flimsy. But fabric structures from BLU-MED are engineered to be durable and withstand high winds and heavy snow loads.
Plus, this durability means they last longer and require less maintenance than other types of structures.
Easy to Store Away and Reuse
Another benefit of high-quality fabric structures is that they can serve as permanent or temporary spaces. Once COVID-19 is no longer a threat to your senior community, the space can easily be packed up and stored away. And you can take it out and repurpose it in the future.
Instant structures like pop-up tents and canopies may be used as a visitor space when temperatures are moderate. But this isn’t feasible in boiling summer heat or freezing winter cold. Thankfully, fabric structures from BLU-MED stay comfortable with optional insulation systems and portable environmental control units (ECUs). So, seniors and their families can have comfortable visiting quarters year-round.
Optional Air Filtration
When it comes to COVID visiting centers, protection against the spread of airborne disease is key. HVAC units in typical buildings circulate air, but they’re often not built with filtration that prevents the spread of airborne disease.
On the other hand, BLU-MED fabric structures have a separate, dedicated HVAC and can include HEPA/germicidal air filtration. These are 99.97% effective in removing airborne particles that carry the coronavirus. This offers an added layer of protection to COVID visitor centers.
Cost-Saving Benefits of Fabric COVID Visiting Centers
Importantly, adding COVID visitor centers can be expensive. However, building with fabric structures offers many cost-saving benefits compared to other options:
- No maintenance costs. No need to fix a leaking roof or rotted wood walls. Fabric structures are durable and require virtually no maintenance.
- No construction crew needed. The XP Medical Shelter from BLU-MED can be built in less than 10 minutes without ladders or a trained construction crew.
Simple Steps to Getting a BLU-MED COVID Visiting Center
If your nursing home is ready to make visiting easier and safer for your residents, it’s simple to install a COVID visitors center with BLU-MED today. Here’s how it works:
- Contact us and let us know your needs.
- Our friendly building specialists will help you plan each detail of your design, including the size, number of entrances, and windows.
- Your structure will be shipped directly to you quickly in cost-effective low-cube packaging.
- You can build your visiting center on your own, or we can send out a team to build it for you.
- Enjoy your new COVID visiting center! Be proud of your role in improving the lives of seniors while keeping them safe.