News about COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus) is coming quickly and causing a lot of fear and uncertainty. While the virus poses health risks to everyone, medical experts currently believe that seniors with chronic health diseases are most at risk. Many of these seniors live in communal settings including nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Risks COVID-19 is Posing to Seniors in Facilities
In Riverside, California eighty-four patients at a local rehabilitation and nursing center were evacuated last week with thirty-four known novel coronavirus cases found among the residents and five among employees. Many residents there have not yet been tested, so the potential exists for a more wide-spread epidemic. The situation in this facility is not unique. Since the first case of novel coronavirus in Kirkland, Washington, at least 150 skilled facilities in more than half the states now have one or more residents who have contracted COVID-19 according to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Family caregivers are increasingly aware of the risks associated with novel coronavirus and concerned for the health and safety of their aging loved ones. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are facing an enormous challenge as they work to keep seniors safe and help families to feel a little more confident. The majority of facilities are stepping up to this challenge with increased safety measures being put in place, but that does not diminish the reality that society is facing. This virus appears to spread quickly. Person-to-person spread is the most common way in which it is transmitted.
What Questions About COVID-19 Should I Ask the Facility?
If your loved one lives in a facility, this is an important time to ask questions and better understand what the facility is doing to keep residents safe.
- What are their requirements for handwashing?
- How are staff illnesses being handled?
- How are safe staff to patient ratios ensured?
- Which visitors are allowed in the facility?
- How often are staff and residents temperature checks taking place?
- Is communal dining or communal exercise still taking place?
- How are residents staying connected to their loved ones?
- Is personal protective equipment being used?
- What are the protocols for social distancing in common areas?
- How often are shared surfaces sanitized?
- What does the COVID-19 infection control training consist of for staff?
In addition to asking a lot of questions, some families are also considering whether or not this is the right time to bring an aging loved one home. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to that question. Rather, it’s important to assess the risks, benefits and process involved before making a decision. If your family is exploring options including potentially bringing your senior loved one home, here are some things to consider.
Should I Move My Loved One Home Because of the Novel Coronavirus?
As Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the Los Angeles County public health director recently stated, it would be “perfectly appropriate” to pull loved ones out of long-term facilities for their safety.
For family caregivers who are properly following CDC guidelines and practicing social distancing, there are advantages to bringing their loved one home.
- Seniors can more easily feel closely connected to family
- It is easier for family members to monitor their loved one’s physical and emotional health at home
- Protecting emotional and mental health while social distancing is easier when everyone is home and consistent caregivers are available
- Family members can avoid the stressors associated with necessary visitation limitations in a facility
What Are the Risks in Moving My Loved One Home?
Along with these benefits, there are potential risks to consider. Medical professionals are currently divided on whether or not it’s best to move an aging loved one home during this epidemic. Guidance is changing from day to day as we learn more about the virus and its spread. What we do know is that, even aside from the virus, fragile seniors face health risks if the proper medications, medical equipment and professional services will not be immediately available after their move home. Preparation is extremely important for this reason.
If your loved one has been exposed to the novel coronavirus, they could put other members of your family at risk if appropriate quarantine measures are not put in place per CDC guidelines.
Families are advised to prepare for the increased emotional and physical caregiver demands that will be placed on them. A safe home where the risks of falls and other safety concerns have been thoroughly evaluated and addressed is also important.
Questions to Ask Before Moving a Senior Home
It is essential to make any decision about moving a senior home on a case-by-case basis. Consider things like the health of your loved one, the comfort and safety of the facility they are in and your family’s resources. Think about how prepared you are to provide the level of care that your loved one needs at home. When gauging your loved one’s needs, consider not only their physical needs but also their emotional and socialization needs. Loneliness and sudden changes can result in depression for an aging loved one, but the positive presence of loving family caregivers and consistent professional in-home caregivers can help your family to overcome these challenges, alleviate stress and ensure that moving home is a positive experience.
Involving a Senior in the Decision to Move Home
As you’re evaluating your loved one’s needs and whether or not moving them home is the right choice, involve them in the decision making process as much as possible. Ask them how they’re feeling and what they want. Weigh benefits versus risks.
- How safe does your loved one feel where they are now?
- Are caregivers in the facility consistent or ever changing? If they are constantly changing, how does that make your loved one feel?
- Is your loved one socializing enough or feeling isolated in their room?
- How do they feel about moving and leaving friends and familiar staff?
- Is your loved one comfortable accepting help from you?
- Do they view the home they will move to as a safe space?
- Are they open to professional home care to help meet their needs?
In addition to these questions, it’s important to recognize that the risk of COVID-19 exposure will not disappear for your loved one even if they do move home. If you are the primary caregiver for your loved one, have a backup plan should you get sick. Understand isolation protocols and how to minimize risks for the rest of your family in case someone gets sick. Have the right information and the right support at home.
Advantages of Senior Case Management in Moving Home
As you’re working through the answers to these questions, professional case management services are a valuable resource to turn to for help. A senior case manager makes any move home easier by providing feedback and support that aids in your decision making and empowers you to do what’s best for your loved one and your family.
Salus Homecare offers a unique level of case management services in the homecare industry, available at no additional cost and as part of our professional homecare services. Our Case Managers essentially provide two types of support – professional oversight of the move back home and oversight after the move to monitor for progress or setbacks and ensure that the plan of care continues to offer the most benefit to your loved one.
What Can I Expect from My Case Manager for the Move Home?
Conversations with your Case Manager should ideally begin ahead of the move. In this early stage, the case manager learns about your loved one’s needs and goals and coordinates with other professionals who are currently providing support. Then, they work with you and your loved one to develop a personalized plan of care to enhance quality of life. Some of the services your loved one’s Case Manager provides during this time include:
- Coordination of the equipment needed in the home
- Ensuring home safety
- Coordinating the delivery of any necessary medications
- Ensuring family caregivers receive proper training, access to resources and support
- Discussing and implementing safety protocols to reduce risk from caregiver/family/senior
Oversight After the Move Home
After your loved one safely moves home, the focus eventually shifts from ensuring that their more immediate needs are met to prioritizing their long term needs and goals. This helps to ensure that the level of care always remains appropriate and beneficial. Salus Case Managers offer ongoing professional oversight and support. Frequent communication helps everyone to anticipate the changing needs of your loved one and proactively taking action to best meet them, minimizing opportunities for setbacks and crises situations. As part of their ongoing support, Case Managers:
- Provide frequent check-ins – a support system to the family and their needs related to the case
- Offer check-ins with the caregiver and on-going training as needed
- Schedule On-going assessment as needed so the plan of care remains appropriate and beneficial
- Adapt services in a timely manner to meet changing needs
- Advocate for the family and provide access to important resources to meet a wide variety of senior needs
While the realities of COVID-19 may cause you to rush in making a choice about moving your loved one home from a facility, it is important to ask questions, gather information and weigh benefits versus risks. Ensure that the right support is available. The goal is to have measures in place so that your loved one is safe and comfortable in whatever setting your family chooses.
As you’re making these difficult decisions, Salus Homecare is here to help. Our Case Managers are a valuable resource to help guide you in the right direction toward finding the solutions that are best for your aging loved one and your family. Contact us anytime to learn more or to begin the process of moving your loved one home.