The apartments are not closing, but seniors may be better off with their families during COVID.
At a time where the state of Michigan is under a strict “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order to curb the spread of COVID-19, many residents in independent living facilities are struggling with social distancing and isolation.
Jewish Senior Life (JSL) sent out a memo on Thursday, March 26 to all independent living residents and families encouraging them, if possible, to pick up their loved ones and bring them home to live with them until the coronavirus crisis comes to an end.
According to Nancy Heinrich, chief executive officer of JSL, the memo only affects residents who are a part of the independent living communities. This includes Meer and Hechtman apartments in West Bloomfield, and Prentis and Teitel apartments in Oak Park.
“Our independent life communities are not healthcare facilities. We don’t provide daily care for them,” Heinrich told the Jewish News. “We are concerned that if a lot of our residents become ill and have to be isolated, they will not be able to obtain the care that they need to help them get through their illness.”
While JSL’s independent living facilities do not provide private care, many residents have their own private caregivers. Heinrich is concerned that if more residents need private caregivers, there will be a shortage. She is also worried that caregivers could contract the virus and not be able to provide care for the family’s loved one, although she says that to date, there are no cases of the virus in any of JSL’s communities.
“We have instructed our residents to stay in their apartments, so they are isolated from one another already,” Heinrich said. “For purposes of keeping them safe and keeping them from contracting the virus, staying with their families might be the best option.
“We want people to think seriously about what would happen if their parent got ill, their caregiver couldn’t make it to help them and if we couldn’t find someone to help their loved one. What would happen to their isolated senior?” Heinrich added.
As of March 30, approximately 34 residents are now living with their family members.
Ron Blumer of Lake Orion picked up his 95-year-old mother, Edith, from Meer Apartments on March 17 before JSL had issued the memo. He was actively monitoring the situation before it had even spread to Michigan.
“I think it is important for families to step up and realize the risk of living communally together like that,” Blumer said. “All it takes is one infection, and that weighed heavily on my mind and my decision because my mom has a better chance of living with us rather than living with 100 people.”
Anticipating the eventual lockdown of the facility also prompted Blumer to take swift action, as he realized his mother could rely on them easily for groceries and medicine.
JSL’s assisted living communities, Fleischman Residence and Coville Apartments, are not impacted since they have staff on-site.
“We are just trying to keep our residents safe and think three steps ahead,” Heinrich said. “Thankfully, there are no cases of the virus in any of our communities. We know not everyone can house their loved ones, so our message to those who have loved ones staying with us is that we will do everything we can to try and ensure that they get the services they need.”