Losing Someone to Covid-19 Who is in Assisted Living

We aren’t going to sugar coat this. Losing a loved one, no matter the circumstances, is really hard. Losing someone to Covid-19 who is in assisted living has additional challenges that are important to acknowledge.

If you are struggling with how to find closure or would like help navigating the new visitation and funeral rules due to Covid-19, please check out our list of resources later in this article.

Losing Someone to Covid-19. Older woman with hand to her face looking sad.

Getting Closure from Losing Someone to Covid-19

For many families, closure has been a lot harder. Especially if family members live far away and are unable to be part of the dying process.  Visitations have been extremely limited and in some cases not allowed. Funeral arrangements have their own set of challenges with limited number of attendees and social distancing precautions.

Imagine attending a funeral where only 10 people are allowed. How do you decide who can come? No one can touch each other, hug each other, or physically comfort each other in all the usually ways. It just doesn’t seem real. Imagine having to view a funeral via a video feed because you aren’t allowed to attend. Many people over the past few months have experienced this exact scenario.

Especially in the early days of the outbreak, when so much about Covid-19 was still unknown. The best course of action was to be as careful as possible, but this left many families struggling to cope with their loss in a whole new way. It was hard to wrap our heads around not being allowed into the hospital or assisted living facility as our loved one passed from this life to the next.

The Challenges of Losing Someone to Covid-19 Who is in Assisted Living

The Assisted Living and Memory Care industry is challenged with some of the most rigorous changes as our senior residents are among the population most susceptible and affected by the virus.  We’ve had to completely revamp our entire cleaning and sanitation process, wear masks and other PPE equipment all the time, and change all of our visitation rules. The list goes on and on.

Many of these changes have been very good and will continue long after the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 is just a distant memory. Our communities have never been cleaner, more testing is being done, and in general, we are just so much more aware of current and potential health problems. We now have procedures in place to reduce or eliminate exposure to current and future issues.  Our relationships with local health departments and hospitals have strengthened and we have improved and increased communication across the board.

But hands down the hardest part of all of this has been losing beloved residents and having to communicate and help facilitate the limitations and restrictions put on families through the process. Death and dying is a regular part of our business but that doesn’t make it any easier.

Ask anyone in this industry what the hardest part of the job is and they will most likely say, “losing a resident we have grown t0 love and care about.”  We are trained for it and encounter it much more than most people. Still, deaths during this pandemic have been extremely hard on everyone.

That is why we have put together this list of resources for families who have lost a loved one during the pandemic, whether is was due to Covid-19 or for some other reason. This virus has made so many things harder. We hope you can find closure and something from the following list that can you and your family.

Help and Resources for Losing Someone to Covid-19 (or during the Covid-19 pandemic)

Articles to Assist with Losing a Loved One

6 ways to help loved ones grieving deaths during the coronavirus pandemic

Dealing with Grief & Loss During COVID-19 Pandemic

Grief and COVID-19: Saying goodbye in the age of physical distancing

Coping With Losing a Family Member to COVID-19

Understanding Grief in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Losing Someone to Covid-19. Adult daughter comforting elderly mother on couch

Arranging a Funeral During Social Distancing

Funerals face changes amid COVID-19

Losing Someone to Covid-19. Man holder a folder with the words Funeral Plan on it

Contact the Nearest Vibrant Life Community (Michigan)

We have four locations through Michigan’s lower peninsula. If you would like to talk to a staff member about additional resources or to find out more information about our assisted living and memory care communities, please contact one of the following:

Vibrant Life Superior Township (Ann Arbor, Michigan Area) (734) 484-4740

Vibrant Life The Lodge of Durand (Durand, Michigan 40 minutes Northeast of Lansing) (989) 288-6561 

Vibrant Life Temperance (southeast corner of Michigan 20 minutes north of Toledo, Ohio) (734) 847-3217 

Vibrant Life New Friends Community (Kalamazoo, Michigan Area) (269) 372-6100

Assisted Living and Covid-19. Yard sign in front of building that says A super hero works here

New Visitation Rules and Guidelines for Assisted Living Communities

We are happy to announce that the most recent state mandate allows us to start having scheduled (but limited) family visits. You can learn more about that here and review our guidelines for scheduling a visit here.  If you are curious about all the changes we have made to ensure the health and safety of our staff and residents, you can read that here.

Limited Visitation. Senior man putting on a mask outside

What’s Next for Senior Care in Ann Arbor?

Senior Care in Ann Arbor, Michigan, including Assisted Living and Memory Care, has changed drastically in the last few months due to the Covid-19 outbreak. As the state starts to open back up again, what does that mean for senior care?

The senior population is one of the most vulnerable to coronavirus. Many assisted living and senior care residency locations where hit hard by the virus.

Why are Vibrant Life’s numbers of positive cases so low?

How to Keep Covid-19 Out of Senior Care in Ann Arbor

Strict guidelines, proactive testing, and community education are the three top things that will keep Covid-19 number down.

Strict Guidelines

Rules and protocol must remain very strict — even as other types of businesses like restaurants, retail stores, salons, etc. start to invite the public in again. Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, Vibrant Life has been at the forefront of executing safety measures and we plan on continuing a very cautious and proactive approach.

Please check out What We Are Doing to keep you Safe, Healthy, and Vibrant During Covid-19 for a complete list of all the changes, protocols, and safety measures we have in place.

Proactive Testing

Vibrant Life has provided more testing for our staff and residents than most. Proactive testing is still unusual in the State of Michigan but Vibrant Life is doing it.  The State mandate requires testing of all residents of nursing homes and weekly testing of nursing home staff. This is problematic because not all senior care is considered “nursing homes.” In fact, Vibrant Life is not – we are categorized as assisted living. Therefore, the mandate does not apply us. Even so, we are testing. 

We now know that people can have the virus and be asymptomatic. Unfortunately, it is during the asymptomatic period when they are most contagious. This is why testing often is important. 

Vibrant Life follows all mandatory guidelines plus non-mandatory guidelines as appropriate for each community. We believe in doing what is right and what is working, not just the bare minimum defined in a mandate. 

Our staff is tested regularly even though we aren’t technically required to. 

Senior Care Community Education and Support

Vibrant Life created an innovative coalition between our senior communities, physicians, local hospitals and local health departments to enact pre-testing, and subsequent monitoring of Covid-19 positive residents. These coalitions have prevented the spread of the virus to others throughout the community.

In addition, we created a Public Service Announcement (PSA) video,“If You Don’t Get It, You Might Spread It” to educate people on preventing the spread of the virus. This was shared with our communities and also made available for all assisted living and senior care facilities to use in order to educate their staff and residents. 

What is Happening Specifically with Senior Care in Superior Township

In the last 30 days we have had no no staff test positive. Recently, we had four residents in our Covid-positive unit.  They all tested negative after two weeks and returned to their suites.  We have had two persons recently come back from the hospital who are still testing positive, and they are in the Covid-positive unit.  They both have been doing well.  This could be a case of the dormant situation explained below. 

What’s Next?

The next steps will likely be limited outdoor meetings with loved ones. Visitors will continue to be screened and have their temperature taken before they can participate. Family members and their loved one who is a resident of Vibrant Life will be able to meet outside for a limited amount of time while practicing safe social distancings. Short walks or sitting outside will be allowed.

Dormant Positive Testing

People who have had the virus sometimes test positive for a long time – up to 60 days and beyond. This can be the case for people who were symptomatic or asymptomatic.  The professionals are beginning to think that even when someone recovers from the virus, it can lay dormant in the body. This can result in a positive test, but it may not be active in a person’s body. 

They think it may not be transferrable or contagious at that time either.  When someone tests positive, and is not in the hospital, we put them in our Covid-positive units.  They would return from the units to their suites when they test negative.  So, if they keep testing positive, that would be a problem.  We will keep conferring with our physicians and health departments as we deal with this issue on an individual basis. 

We are very happy to report that each positive resident who recovered and moved out of the Covid unit has not re-tested as positive since. 

Interested In Learning More?

Our location in Superior Township near Ann Arbor is accepting new residents at this time. We offer virtual tours of all of our locations. We also schedule virtual meetings to answer all of your questions and provide information on the process for moving in a new resident. Please contact us (734) 484-4740 or visit our website for more information.

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Memory Care in Ann Arbor: Options for Dementia

Are you looking for Memory Care in Ann Arbor, Michigan or surrounding areas? The good news is that you have options, even though it is never an easy decision to make for a loved one.

If you are struggling with this decision or aren’t sure if it is the right time, we encourage to you read When Is It Time for Assisted Living?

The very fact that you are researching this possibility means that it is time for some sort of senior care or assisted living. We speak with many families on a weekly basis who are in the same place you are right now. The question really isn’t “Is it time?” but rather, “What level of care is needed at this time?

Note: During this difficult time of quarantine and Covid-19, there are many precautions and additional things to consider. Please read Assisted Living & Memory Care in Ann Arbor Coronavirus Updates and Information for information about specific changes and new protocols. Later in this article we address some very creative solutions to combating dementia and Alzheimer’s during this time of isolation.

Memory Care in Ann Arbor: Things to considermemory care in kalamazoo

When someone starts experiencing dementia it is a confusing time for the whole family. Each case is unique and the rate of progression is different for each person. However, in all cases there comes a time when it just isn’t safe for the person to live alone or to be left alone for any significant amount of time.

This is why it is so important to choose an assisted living residence that has several different levels of care. This is often referred to as aging in place. Your loved one can move in at the level that makes sense for where they are today and can easily transition to more care as they need it. Unfortunately, with dementia and memory care later in life, people will generally decline. They will need more care at some point.

It is also really important that they have a stable and familiar environment as their dementia progresses. Lots of moves and changes will make a difficult situation even harder, so aging in place in a really important consideration.

The Different Levels of Memory Care in Ann Arbor

memory care in kalamazoo

The best kind of memory care provides compassionate care and 24-hour supervision in a comfortable environment that feels like home.

Unlike most memory care communities, at Vibrant Life’s Assisted Living and Memory Care Ann Arbor location, our memory care/dementia program has different levels of care.

  1. Early-stage memory care
  2. Middle stage memory care
  3. Later stage memory care

We have “lodges” all right next to each other on the same campus and look virtually exactly the same.  A person generally will be able to stay in their same room and lodge as time goes on, but occasionally they do move to another lodge.  However the rooms look identical. In this way we make all the transitions as smooth as possible.

Residents mostly interact with other residents who are at the same level so they are with people most similar to them.  We and our families have found this to be a very effective way of providing the highest quality of life for our residents. All of our Carefriends are specially trained to provide the highest quality of care  in a respectful, dignified and loving way. Our staff works with each resident and their families to determine what level of cognition they have when they first come to us. We also all work as a team to decide when and if  it becomes beneficial to move to different level of care and potentially different memory care “lodge.”

Our personalized care plans encompass everything from assistance with everyday activities like grooming and dining to programming that encourages hobbies and relationship building.

Music and Memory Care in Ann Arbor tic-toc choir

Music is a very big part of the culture at all of the Vibrant Life communities. We use it every day to provide peace and joy. The Music Program here is second to none and utilizes the latest research and developments in how music helps with dementia. Click here to find out more.

RelatedThe Science Behind Music Therapy to Combat Dementia

Our Tic-Toc Choir has gained local fame with their music video “Don’t Define Me, Just Remind Me” and a documentary that was made about the choir called The Spirit of Caring. Check them out!

How Has Covid-19 Coronavirus Changed Assisted Living in Ann Arbor?

Isolation is hard on everyone but it is especially hard on those dealing with dementia. We are finding new and creative ways to keep our residents engaged and active while still maintaining safety measures. Here a few things we are doing:

  • Eating in doorways. Now that our residents are isolated to their rooms we set up tray tables in their doorways during meal times. This allows them to see each other and socialize.  We also call bingo and provided music and singing this way, too.
  • More 1 on 1 time with staff. Both the staff and residents are enjoying getting to know each other better.
  • Video Calls. We are utilizing Zoom and Facetime for our residents to connect with family. Many people have reported that they are communicating even more now than before the pandemic due to this technology.
  • Physical Activity. Many people with dementia and memory issues tend to wander. We are allowing our ambulatory residents individual time to walk around the community and go outside when weather permits. They always have a staff member with them and this helps with restlessness.
  • Staff Pictures on Shirts. All of our staff wear face masks at all times, which can make it hard for our residents to recognize them and ready their lips. Some of our staff have started to put a large picture of themselves on the front of their shirts. This has really helped.

Would You Like More Information?

Vibrant Life is providing Virtual Tours of all 4 of our locations. If you or a loved one is in need of assisted living, senior living, or memory care, we can provide the answers and resources to answer your questions.

You can visit our website for information on each community. For information specific to our Ann Arbor Community in Superior Township, please click here or call (734)484-4740 to speak with our Director of Admissions and Community Relations.

We are also updating our site regularly with any new information about coronavirus that is urgent or helpful to our staff, families, residents, and the community in general. You can find that information here.

Additional Resources

Musical Minute – Social Distancing with Song!

Message to Families of Vibrant Life Senior Living Residents from Dean Solden

New PSA Music Video – IF YOU DON’T GET IT, YOU MIGHT SPREAD IT, by Dean Solden

Hello everyone,

During this difficult time, we all need to find some ways to let off some steam, and get some stress release. As many of you know, music helps me, as I am also as professional musician, besides being Founder of Vibrant Life and a part of the Management Team.

A few weeks ago, late at night, I wrote a tune called, If you don’t get it, you might spread it.  It was originally intended for our young staff, who early on in the virus crisis, were still learning the ropes about social distancing, hand washing and staying at home.  It evolved into a general message to the public.

I did an original “home-video” version.  Now, with the help of some friends across the country, mostly done in our home studios, we have made a more professional version of the song.  You can find it on youtube, and you can find it right here.

Please pass this on to any person or group you feel still needs the reminder.  It also may help you move your feet around a bit!

Enjoy, stay home, and stay safe,

Dean Solden, Founder, Vibrant Life Senior Living

deansoldenmusic.com     deansolden.vibrantlife@gmail.com

 

A Frontline Perspective from Assisted Living in Ann Arbor

Vibrant Life’s facility for assisted living in Ann Arbor has a new Executive Director. Angie Hanson had no idea she would have to start her assisted living in ann arbor new career managing a world-wide pandemic. However, her experience and management style is enhancing our Ann Arbor community and bringing the staff and residents together in these strange times.

We caught up with her to talk about her position, what a typical day is like, and how things have changed because of the quarantine.

“I officially started a couple days before the shelter in place order, so I worked from home and got tested for Covid-19. When it came back negative I could go into the facility.” Hanson said.

She is not new to the world of senior care, having worked in the field for over 14 years. Hanson originally went to school for teaching and took a job in assisted living while finishing college. She connected with the residents and her co-workers and pivoted her career. “I am still educating people every day, just in a different capacity.”

RelatedWhat’s Happening inside Senior Communities During the Virus Crisis

A Typical Day for an Assisted Living Executive Director

During the coronavirus pandemic, nothing is really typically. However, Hanson’s daily duties are always about communication. She walks the facility, touching base with staff and residents. She checks in at least twice a day with each department, such as dining, maintenance, and activities. Hanson is always monitoring the facility’s census (number of residents), planning for upcoming staff training, and communicating changes.  

“I need to know how each department is doing and what they need. Daily operations take up most of my time. I am also in charge of hiring new staff, budgets, receipts, things like that.” Hanson explains.

The best results always happen out of trust.

You have to build relationships.”

Angie Hanson, Executive Director Vibrant Life Superior Township

Hanson takes a team approach to making decisions and solving problems. For example, if a resident develops depression, she will talk to the family. the nurse, the activities director, and even the dining staff. They will all provide their input on what each area can do to help the resident. It might be more communication with their family. making a favorite dish, doing a craft, going outside, or a medication consideration. The solution is always a team effort.

“I don’t make decisions by myself. I consider the whole team. It’s my job to figure out how to best communicate information,” Hanson explained.

How Assisted Living in Ann Arbor has Changed Due to Covid-19

The facility is made up of separate buildings that are called Lodges. Now, especially during the virus crisis, each lodge is isolated and working, more or less, independently of each other, rather than together.  Certain staff are assigned to specific lodges and only work in one building. Residents now eat in their rooms, but Hanson and her team came up with a creative solution that makes this shift easier for everyone.

They have set up TV tray tables in the doorways of the residents’ rooms. This way, they can still see each other down the hall, staff can interact with them, and assist the residents with their meals when needed. “We have even able to call bingo this way, so that has been fun.” Hanson explained.

They are still celebrating birthdays and having fun wherever they can.

Health Department Assistance

The health department in Ann Arbor has provide critical support. They have assigned a nurse and physician to the facility. Hanson can all them anytime with questions,  get resources, or to develop solutions to new issues.

Hanson revealed that one of the hardest things about the current situation is fear. “Our staff is fearful that they may have it (coronavirus) and expose others. They work here all day and then go home to their families. They worry they will expose their families. We are all taking a lot of time  reassuring each other and we know we are in this together. When we go home we sanitize and shower up.” 

It is very hard on essential workers because not only are they at work providing needed services, they have the added duty of reassuring their own families and keeping them calm.

Assisted Living in Ann Arbor

“We can be fearful and nervous, but this is bad for our bodies – too much cortisol is created.  I reassure them, and they motivate them to stay positive.  It is so cool to watch how everyone is coming together.”

With the use of masks inside the facility (all staff are wearing them at all times) it has posed some problems for residents. Many residents who are hard of hearing rely on lip reading to understand staff, so that has been a challenge. Memory care patients don’t always recognize the staff either, because of the masks.

Finding the Good

In additional to the health protocols that have been put in place, Hanson reveals that the biggest positive change that has developed is more one-on-one time with the residents. Staff has had more time to sit and color, share pictures, hear stories, and just really connect.

“It’s has been fun watching the staff interact with our residents. They are doing creative things, taking walks, enjoying the courtyard, and even eating with the residents – at a distance, of course.”

Vibrant Life has been utilizing technology a lot more and residents have been utilizing zoom,  skype and facetime to talk with families.  Many of them have been able to connect to a family member they haven’t talked with in a long time. 

Hanson admitted, “I can’t believe we haven’t been utilizing these available services all along, but we will continue to do so in the future, even when the ban is lifted.”

The dining staff have been making more favorite dishes and utilizing some of the residents’ family recipes.

The New Universal Worker

Due to isolating lodges and new protocols, each staff members has really pitched in to take on more tasks, many of which are new to them. They are forming new ideas and ways to do things together differently. “They are really getting excited about it and have great ideas. I’d like this to be the new model on what we are doing by enhancing the teamwork approach we already have in place.” Hanson explained. 

An Outpouring of Support

Hanson gushed about how caring and thankful the residents’ family members have been. One family has been shipping candy to the staff. Another one bought lunch for the whole community. They have also received countless kind words, emails, and messages of gratitude and encouragement.

“When you go through hardships this sort of thing really shines.”  

Are Assisted Living Facilities Taking New Residents? 

Yes, they are. As you can imagine, there are strict protocols put in place. The first being a required Covid-19 test. Only residents who test negative are allowed to move in at this point.

Vibrant Life Superior is also actively hiring employees, with the same requirements.

In addition, this facility has one entire lodge that is ready to assist with hospital overflow. It is has been sanitized and closed to current staff and residents. The types of patients and level of care has not be determined at this point, but the Health Department is aware that the space is available if needed.

Would You Like More Information?

Vibrant Life is providing Virtual Tours of all 4 of our locations. If you or a loved one is in need of assisted living, senior living, or memory care, we can provide the answers and resources to answer your questions.

You can visit our website for information on each community.

We are also updating our site regularly with any new information about coronavirus that is urgent or helpful to our staff, families, residents, and the community in general. You can find that information here.

Additional Resources

Musical Minute – Social Distancing with Song!

Message to Families of Vibrant Life Senior Living Residents from Dean Solden

Vibrant Life Senior Living, Superior Township’s first “Sneak Preview” Open House

Our construction sneak-peak open house for Vibrant Life Senior Living, Superior Township was a fun night for everyone. This was our first opportunity to reach out to the community. From other professionals in the senior healthcare industry to website marketers and musicians, the event brought all walks of life together to introduce Vibrant Life Superior to the community, talk about how we can solve a major issue in the senior living industry, and showcase our facility.

Solving more than one problem with Assisted Living

Dean Solden, the co-owner and developer of Vibrant Life Senior Living, Superior Township. took a few minutes to discuss the purpose of the facility with the guests. “Assisted living communities exist because they solve a problem. We provide 24-hour supervision and physical and cognitive care to those seniors who cannot live at home anymore,” said Dean. “However, in doing so, the industry has created another problem. We segregate our seniors, and as a result, we reduce the opportunities for meaningful relationships and stimulation activity, which is a prime ingredient for depression. At Vibrant Life, we have innovative solutions which address this problem, reduce depression, and ultimately create a wonderful environment for the people who live and work here, allowing them to enjoy their lives, to thrive, not just survive.”

Modern facilities and cutting-edge care

This is exactly what Vibrant Life is attempting to create with the new 72 unit assisted living and memory care facility.  By taking a property that has fallen into disrepair, in a growing section of Western Washtenaw County, Dean and his team are hoping to implement new practices in the industry.

 

Creating opportunities in Assisted Living and Memory Care

Over 60 community members took a tour of the new Vibrant Life.  Some people were interested in finding a place for their loved one, some were looking for employment, others were just neighbors interested in seeing the progress being made.  As the jazz band played, community members enjoyed a picnic style summer spread of hot dogs, assorted fruit, and potato salad, all prepared by Vibrant Life Superior’s head chef, Tiffani Gordon.
Dean also spoke about some of the other innovative things that Vibrant Life will be implanting.

  1. At Vibrant Life, we will have two levels of assisted living and three levels of memory care.  “We pride ourselves on our different levels of care. Not only do we aid people who have physical needs, but we have a special lodge for people with early cognitive needs.  Most other communities don’t have the sensitivity to those with early cognitive needs. We also have a lodge for those with moderate to severe cognitive needs, and then one lodge for later stage memory issues.  “By creating these separate lodges, we offer almost “custom” care. People are with people who are like them, which makes a better quality of life for all the residents, staff and families.”
  2. “No more going to the nursing home for Rehab. At Vibrant Life, we will have our own out-patient Rehab where people can get their Rehab while enjoying their life in one of our beautiful Lodges.  This is a game-changer.”
  3. “Our own in-house neurologist. This is amazing.  We will have our own neurologist, who will follow all our memory care residents. This is unheard of in the industry.
  4. “We have a relationship with the University of Michigan School of Social Work. We will be a field placement for the Master’s level students who will help counsel and support the people who live and work at Vibrant Life as well as their families.  This fits perfectly with our mission.”

A rainy day did not dilute the energy as community members networked with one another and shared ideas with staff about how this Vibrant Life Senior Living can be the best-assisted living and memory care it can be.