33% of Senior Housing Residents Are Unwilling to Be Tested for Covid-19

A sizable cohort of senior housing residents and their families do not want to be tested for Covid-19, while an equal-sized segment is willing to be tested monthly.

Senior housing residents and their families also are overwhelmingly satisfied with the industry’s response to Covid-19, and want tighter community restrictions on visitors to remain in place for the foreseeable future, according to a survey conducted by Activated Insights, the senior care division of Great Place to Work, the organization that puts together the annual Great Place to Work in Aging Services list. This year’s list is scheduled to be released on December 10.

Overall, 80% of senior housing residents and their families are satisfied with their community’s response to the pandemic – echoing results Activated Insights found over the summer, Activated Insights CEO Dr. Jacquelyn Kung told Senior Housing News. The survey included responses from 5,000 people.


The survey also revealed a vast majority – 80% – want communities to reopen and require all visitors to wear masks. However, less than 10% of residents want their communities to reopen without restrictions, and 6% don’t want their communities to reopen at all.

Perhaps the most surprising result of the survey found that one-third of respondents indicated an unwillingness to be tested for the coronavirus, while another one-third indicated they are willing to be tested monthly. Nearly 10% were open to daily testing, and the remainder said they wanted to be tested bi-weekly.

The cohort that is unwilling to be tested for Covid-19 surprised Kung, and she suspects that part of the reason for the high percentage might be due to family members of memory care residents. They fill out the surveys if their loved one is not able to, and so the result could reflect their own feelings, or their attempt to discern what someone with cognitive impairment might prefer, Kung surmised. 


But there are instances where that reluctance fades once providers get to the root issues behind it. In one example, HumanGood found no resistance to testing among its residents after launching its testing program with Dr. Chris Furmanski, former head of innovation at Stanford Health Care, over the summer, Kung told SHN.

Arcadia Communities, one provider whose residents participated in the survey, was also surprised by the high percentage of respondents who expressed a reticence for testing. The Louisville, Kentucky-based operator has a portfolio of seven communities in Kentucky and Tennessee. The organization saw 56% of residents and their families participate in the survey. Of that number, 93% of respondents strongly agreed with the operator’s response to the pandemic, but 32% expressed an unwillingness to be tested, COO Kristie Kronk told SHN.

Arcadia leadership and executive directors reached out to respondents who did not want to be tested and learned that, because communities have been in lockdown since spring, a greater fear among resident populations was contracting the virus from frontline workers and their movements outside of the work environment.

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“They wanted to be sure we were considering how often we were testing our staff,” Kronk said.

Arcadia, which has not recorded a positive Covid-19 case among its residents, now conducts monthly baseline testing for staff and is quick to quarantine workers who test positive..

Kronk stressed that the rest of Arcadia’s respondents are open to at least monthly testing.

These survey findings come as access to testing is improving, and as some senior living providers are pursuing innovative approaches to testing. The federal government has sent Covid-19 rapid antigen tests to thousands of assisted living communities across the country. These tests in some cases will supplement ongoing testing regimens that providers have already developed. Kisco Senior Living is pursuing a pooled approach to testing, utilizing saliva samples; residents are less resistant to saliva-based tests compared to uncomfortable nasopharyngeal swab tests, VP of Operations Ed Ward told SHN.

Other findings from the survey include that one out of every two residents and family members wants weekly communication on reopening plans, 10% want daily communication, and 45% prefer bi-weekly or monthly updates. As for preferred methods of communication, between 50% and 60% of respondents prefer letters or mail, and 40% prefer updates in community newsletters or mailbox stuffers.

At Arcadia, 54% of its respondents indicated they preferred updates via mail, and on a monthly basis, Kronk said.

Arcadia’s updates include guidance on community restrictions and safety procedures, which she credits as being the foundation for Arcadia’s successful response to the pandemic.

“We’re putting together really good information,” she said. “Our families have felt from day one that we have kept them well informed, and we have had their loved one as our highest priority.”

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