281020 Making Life Choices for Seniors During the Pandemic
By June Duncan
June Duncan is the co-creator of https://riseupforcaregivers.org/, and https://riseupforcaregivers.org/blog/ which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She has been the caregiver to her 85-year-old mother for quite some time and enjoys sharing caregiving tips she has gleaned from her own experience. She is also the author of the upcoming book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.
Are you feeling less confident about making decisions for your senior loved one since the start of the coronavirus pandemic? If so, you are not alone. The AARP reported as far back as the beginning of April the rising concerns and anxieties swirling around nursing homes and assisted living. The virus is more dangerous to seniors, and that can make even seemingly little things, like doctor’s appointments, concerning events.
How, exactly, can you make smart choices about their health and their long-term care that won’t put them even closer to harm? The answer is not the same for everyone, but it does start with research and objectively weighing the pros and cons of potential scenarios.
Start with Medicare
Your loved one’s Medicare coverage may have a significant impact on your decisions. For this reason, it makes sense to take a look at their coverage before you start weighing your options. While Medicare is certainly a valuable asset, there are many different plans.
If you find that their coverage is lacking, it’s a good time to start gathering the information you need to change plans once the Open Enrollment Period (OEP) comes around (October 15 through December 7). This is the only opportunity existing Medicare members have to switch to a new Advantage Plan or revert back to Original Medicare. Keep in mind, however, that Medicare doesn’t traditionally cover assisted living, but it does, in some circumstances, help with the cost of rehabilitative care, which a senior might receive at a nursing facility.
Understand the Risks
When it’s time to consider things like taking your loved one to the doctor or putting them in assisted living or memory care, you have to weigh the pros against the cons. Start by evaluating their overall health and wellness. Can they still bathe themselves and chew and swallow without assistance? Are they overall healthy but suffer from an underlying respiratory disorder such as asthma? Depending on the answers to these questions, you may decide that they are safer at home until the bulk of coronavirus cases have cleared.
If you decide that residential care is the option, you should make yourself aware of ways that facilities are keeping their residents safe. The CDC has established a set of COVID-19 guidelines specifically for nursing homes. The organization’s recommendations include:
- Keeping infected patients separate, and only utilizing a staff specific to them.
- Staff involved in coronavirus patient care have their own bathroom and break room.
- To minimize the transfer of the virus, staff members must wear protection, including a respirator mask, gown, and gloves.
- Dedicated equipment for coronavirus patient care.
- New residents evaluated and observed for the virus’s suspected 14-day incubation period prior to being released to the multi-use residential areas.
Seniors who are in good health may be able to wait before entering a senior-oriented community. There are other options that can prolong their independence and keep them much further away from exposure. Joining an adult daycare, for example, while still exposing them to other seniors, allows them to be home at night. Alternatively, you might consider bringing them into your own home. Sound Options asserts that this will require some changes, and you’ll need to ensure that your house is safe while navigating family dynamics, such as having children. Another option is to have your senior loved one downsize into a smaller, safer, and more manageable home. Keep in mind that you can still buy and view homes during the pandemic without risking going inside someone else’s house, as 3D walkthroughs and live video chats make it possible to tour homes virtually.
It is never easy to decide where your loved one will live during their senior years. The virus makes this an even greater challenge, and you’ll have many more fears and concerns, especially when your elderly parent or grandparent is already immune-compromised. This is not intended to be a comprehensive explanation of how to make these decisions or what senior care centers are doing to keep residents safe. If you still have questions, contact your local assisted-living or memory care provider. You can also talk to your loved one’s healthcare professional, who is your greatest ally as you learn to navigate the new normal with your senior.
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