There are seven residential buildings on our 22-acre campus, two of which house people in need of advanced levels of care. Last March, management here applied the State’s Covid-19 directives for nursing homes across the whole campus.

Dining rooms were closed, and staff began to leave a meal packaged in plastic at my apartment door every day. The State’s directives changed as the epidemic evolved, and management pivoted. However necessary, it hasn’t been pretty.

The Most Vulnerable Suffered Most

Residents in the two high-care buildings were locked in and not allowed visitors. When the high rates of contagion and death at nursing homes on the coasts were reported, some families removed their loved ones from our CCRC.

Those remaining lost some services – massage and hair salon, for example – but essential caregivers continued to tend to them. Last spring nearly two dozen residents contracted the virus from staff, and three of the oldest and sickest passed away. There have been no deaths since.

Our campus’ activities director tries to lighten things up. On Mother’s Day, for example, families were invited to join a parade of cars circling the buildings while their loved ones were brought to the windows to wave.

Families decorated their cars with flowers and balloons, and residents blew kisses. Not quite as good as a hug, but better than no connection at all.

And the Rest of Us?

Residents in the “independent living” buildings, including my husband and me, have it better. We can come and go, with certain restrictions. When we return to the campus from an errand, we must pass a temperature screening in the main lobby.

If we travel, upon return we must quarantine in our apartment for 14 days. And if we employ essential caregivers privately, they must present a negative Covid-19 test every week.

Until recently, we were not allowed visitors. Now anyone who wants to enter an apartment must produce a negative test taken within 48 hours, and the number of visitors on any given day is capped.

Makes it hard for out-of-towners to organize a safe trip. All my kids live back East, and I expect them to remain there for the next little while.

Management’s View

Staff are all tested weekly for the virus by management. Those who test positive stay home and follow CDC guidelines about returning to their jobs. Around two dozen have sickened since March, with no deaths, from a roster of nearly 200.

The director tries to keep residents informed about virus matters by offering bi-weekly virtual “town hall” meetings in which she goes over the campus’ Covid census, among other things.

In a recent town hall, the director told us that between March and October, Governor Ducey had issued 42 executive orders affecting CCRCs. She asked for our forbearance in coping with the ambiguities that resulted. There were quite a few.

Rule Breakers

The director also begged us not to cheat. Evidently, a number of residents regularly meet with their adult children on campus. When she confronts them, they say they understand the need for caution, but they keep flaunting the rules anyway.

It seems that some people on this campus believe they are exempt from rules – a bad habit left over, I suspect, from a prior life of privilege.

Emerging from Down Under

In the last month, more features of community life were reinstated. We can now eat in the dining room, socially distanced, if desired. The fitness center and swimming pool are open, and exercise classes have resumed for no more than 10 people at a time. Still, I see that many residents are cautious about rejoining social activities, and appropriately so.

On the other hand, not fraternizing with others hurts. Consider Barbara, a spritely 90-year-old who loved to give cocktail parties on her balcony decorated to resemble a Paris bistro. She no longer does her hair and will tell you she’s not happy with life. Her neighbors are concerned.

When Will We Emerge?

Will the old and infirm people here perk up as activities are re-introduced in their daily lives? I hope so, especially when I see the toll isolation has taken on my husband, who depends on exercise to hold his Parkinson’s disease at bay.

The virus has negated the principle advantage of living in a CCRC: congregate living. I will continue to launder face masks daily as Tom and I wait it out.

What do you know about Covid conditions in independent living facilities? Are people following the rules or are more often breaking them? Would you choose to socialize or isolate when living in a CCRC? Please share your thoughts and observations below.

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