More than six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is still looking for the best way to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. Perhaps no one is looking for answers more than the families of the 1.7 million older adults living in nursing homes in the United States. For families with loved ones in a nursing home, the pandemic has meant fewer — if any — visits and fewer opportunities to oversee the care their loved ones are receiving. Nursing homes are working around the clock, but sometimes there isn’t a substitute for being able to check on your loved one in person.
Because of the high risk associated with nursing homes and COVID-19, many adults caring for senior parents have chosen to delay moving them into a nursing home in the hopes of protecting them from COVID-19 and its risks. Instead, these families have been working overtime to keep their loved ones healthy and safe at home without bringing the virus to them.
If you or your loved one are in either of these situations, you know how challenging it can be to help older family members feel connected during this time. Supporting older family members and friends during the pandemic is difficult, but it’s not impossible with these tips for keeping seniors safe during COVID-19.
Although COVID-19 isn’t “new” news, there are frequent updates and recommendations coming out. In response, families are continually making adjustments to how they care for each other, especially families with older adults who require assistance.
There are many ways to discuss the pandemic with the older population, especially if they don’t appear to be taking precautions to stay healthy. News of the pandemic and the effects it has on people all over the world is everywhere. Start by checking to see what your loved one has heard and helping to correct any misconceptions they may have about COVID-19 and their risk level.
Some older adults — especially those who are in good shape — may have a tendency to think they aren’t at risk, even though statistics might say otherwise. Even if they’re in the best shape of their lives, their age puts them at higher risk, which means it’s important to take precautions.
In some families, parents may be reluctant to listen to their children — even though they are adults — because they still feel the divide between parent and child. If this is the case, try to figure out who they will listen to and point them toward those trusted sources. Those sources may include another family member in their generation, a family friend or a science-based website, such as the Centers for Disease Control or your state and local health department websites.
Adults who are cognitively impaired may not understand what’s happening and new social norms, such as wearing a mask and the increased expectation of handwashing and sanitation. They may also be unable to comprehend social distancing, especially if they suffer from hearing loss. No matter what you try, they simply may not understand what’s going on around them. Rather than becoming frustrated trying to help them understand, remember they have no control over their inability to comprehend what’s happening. Instead, shift your focus toward finding ways to protect them and help them stay healthy in a familiar environment.
Monitoring a loved one’s health — and illness, if it arises — is an important job. Even for families who may be social distancing from each other, it’s important to connect regularly and keep tabs on your loved one’s overall physical and mental health. The following are a few ways you can do so:
1. Stock Their Pantry
One of the most basic ways to help an older loved one is to make sure their pantry is stocked with healthy, easy-to-prepare foods. If you can’t go into their home to check, make a point to help them order groceries or go the extra mile and pick up groceries for them. Delivering meals is another great way to ensure they’re receiving the nutrition their body needs to fight illness and stay healthy.
Encouraging good nutrition goes hand in hand with encouraging physical activity when possible. If your loved one is able to do so safely, encourage them to spend time working in a garden or going for walks. Even something as simple as yoga or stretches indoors can be helpful to their overall physical health.
2. Check in Regularly
Make a point to check in with your loved one regularly to see how they’re feeling. Even if they don’t tell you they’re sick, you can pick up on cues such as a change in their tone of voice or lack of interest in chatting. Whether you check in with your loved one in person or over the phone depends on your situation. In some cases, families are safely able to visit their loved one in person by chatting in the yard or on the porch while maintaining social distancing. If you’re avoiding all in-person contact, phone calls or video chats are a great alternative.
When you’re talking, pay close attention to how your loved one looks and what they say. Do they appear to have lost weight? That may mean they aren’t eating consistently. Do they say things that make it sound like they may be struggling with depression? If possible, encourage them to share what they’re struggling with. If their depression seems severe, help them contact a doctor or mental health professional for support.
3. Keep up With Doctors’ Visits and Medications
Although the “safer at home” principle continues to be important, this shouldn’t prevent your loved one from receiving the medical care they need. You can help them remember to refill medications and offer to pick them up at the store or find a pharmacy with a drive-thru window or delivery option.
You may want to keep track of their medical appointments and encourage them to keep them. For annual checkups, such as a dermatology appointment, you can encourage them to opt for a telemedicine appointment. If they become ill or need to see a doctor in person for a changing condition, their doctor can advise them on the safest way to attend an in-person appointment.
Help Older Family Members Feel Connected
Finding ways to connect with an older loved one can be challenging, especially at a time when families are being encouraged to stay home and away from others outside of their household. But just because you can’t sit in your mom’s kitchen doesn’t mean you can’t connect with her on a regular basis. Now is the time to use the technology you have available and set your loved one up to use technology too.
1. Phone Calls
Phone calls can be a welcome and familiar communication method for older family members. If your loved one lives alone, make a point to check in every couple of days. Or recruit other family members to take turns with a daily phone call to brighten their day. When it comes to knowing how to care for parents during COVID-19, sometimes simple is best.
2. Video Chats
Technology has been a lifesaver during the pandemic, primarily because families of all ages in all locations have been able to connect via video conferencing. If your loved one isn’t set up with the technology or knowledge they need for video conferencing, give them a quick lesson and set them up with a computer or tablet that will instantly connect them with loved ones.
Then use video chats to share a meal together, watch a movie or simply have a conversation. Besides communication, a computer or tablet can also give them access to books and movies that can help them pass the time at home.
3. Drive-By Visits
Depending on where your loved one lives, you may be able to support elderly friends and family during the pandemic by scheduling a time to drive by their house for a quick hello. This can be done with them on the porch and you in the car or you can sit in the yard with 6 feet of space in between. Although it is not the same as curling up on their couch for a conversation, a drive-by visit provides much-needed companionship and also affords you the opportunity to check on them.
Whether you give them a call or stop for a chat in the yard, the most important thing you can do is give an older loved one the time and space to talk about how they’re feeling. Everyone is feeling isolated after so many months of staying home and avoiding regular social activities, but for older adults, this isolation can be worse because many of them don’t have other family members at home with them.
When you’re talking to seniors about COVID-19, take a step back from leading the conversation and give them space to express themselves. Ask how they feel about what’s going on and what they think about being home. Encourage them to express their emotions and frustrations rather than keep them bottled up. If they seem reluctant to talk with you, help them find someone they are more comfortable opening up to, such as a friend or a pastor.
No matter how your loved one feels and the opinions they express, remember to treat them with respect and kindness. Just because they are older or may not understand some of what’s happening doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be treated kindly. When you take the time to talk this way, it demonstrates that you care and want to help figure out what’s best for them.
Benefits of In-Home Care
Life doesn’t stop, even for COVID-19. For some families, that means their older adult loved ones increasingly need more care. This is a challenging scenario because families may have been socially distancing themselves from a loved one and feel uncomfortable caring for them in their home. Other families are reluctant to place their loved one into a nursing home because of the increased risk that they may contract COVID-19.
An alternative to both of these scenarios is in-home care, which means hiring a professional to come to your loved one’s home to help administer medications, assist with daily hygiene needs and help with a variety of other health and personal needs.
1. Is It Safe to Allow Another Person Into My Loved One’s Home?
In-home services are more important than ever because they are helping older adults keep chronic medical conditions under control. If those conditions are allowed to deteriorate, a loved one may end up in the hospital, which puts them at far greater risk of contracting COVID-19 than being in close proximity to one person providing their in-home care. In-home care services are also taking precautions to protect their clients and staff from contracting or spreading COVID-19.
2. Will Insurance Cover It?
It’s important to contact your loved one’s insurance company to see what they will cover. In some cases, insurance companies may be more open to the idea of home care than before. For example, Medicare has revised its home health benefits to define “homebound” as an adult who has been advised by their doctor to stay home, even if it is simply because they are considered high risk for COVID-19.
3. What Services Can My Loved One Receive?
It’s important to talk with your loved one’s doctor and insurance company to determine what kind of care they need and what’s covered under their insurance.
Precautions We Are Taking
At Active Senior Care, we continue to take precautions to protect the health of our clients and staff. Our goal is to provide our clients peace of mind knowing they are cared for without needing to leave their home and put themselves at risk to get the help and support they need.
In addition to educating our staff to identify potential COVID-19 symptoms, our team has been trained to identify potential risk factors in clients and staff and act on those risk factors to prevent either party from coming into close contact with each other. Most importantly, we encourage our caregivers to stay home if exposure to COVID-19 is expected.
The following are additional precautions we have in place:
- Frequent handwashing: All caregivers are required to wash their hands prior to entering a client’s home. They must wash their hands at least once each hour for every hour they are inside.
- Increased availability of protective gear: Our caregivers are given additional sanitation and protective supplies, including face masks, gloves and sanitizing wipes.
- Live-in care options: In some cases, the risk of having a caregiver come and go from your loved one’s home may be too great. Active Senior Care offers a live-in care option for older adults who need more help from someone who isn’t coming into contact with other clients. Besides reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19, live-in caregivers can provide increased socialization and decrease the potential for injury or the severity of illness with assistance and early detection when problems arise.
Contact Active Senior Care
Now more than ever, it is important to protect the health and quality of life of older adults. At Active Senior Care, we remain committed to providing referrals for a high-quality companion or live-in care for the older adults in your life who can no longer live alone. As an AHCA Licensed Nurse Registry, our job is to match licensed professionals with older adults in need. We strive to deliver quality care by conducting regular quality checks and hiring professional certified nurses and caregivers.
If you or your loved one can no longer live alone, take a step toward a solution. Contact us to learn more about our options for in-home care today.