Senior Living Advice: Heartbreaking – Seniors facing the COVID-19 Pandemic alone

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By Beth DowSolutions By Beth

I was so hoping that this month’s article was going to be about the joy we would all feel as we once again were able to wrap our arms around our loved ones residing in assisted living, nursing homes and other long-term care communities.  But not yet.

The new order signed June 29th by Gov. Kemp, extends his standing order to August 11th (11:59pm).  That is bringing us to over five months, almost half of 2020, of isolation in their rooms for many of our seniors in long-term care communities, and for most, no physical contact or face to face or communication with family without a barrier.

This breaks my heart.  It breaks my heart to read the stories, the emails, the posts of families who have lost loved ones without being able to be with them while they were dying.  It breaks my heart to know that the last days of these aging loved one’s final months or years are spent alone.

The number one reason people choose assisted living communities, vs. living at home with home care is the socialization that is available in that community. The COVID-19 virus, and the precautions taken to stop the spread of it in long-term care communities, has removed the ability to socialize as they once did in the past.

I can tell you as a whole, the long-term care communities in our area have done exceptional jobs taking care of their residents  under unprecedented conditions.  They have truly been heroes. And my criticism is  not of them.  They are following the rules they have been given and interpreting them as best they can to protect their very valuable residents.  I am just very concerned.

If you are a grandparent of a 15-year-old boy, you will understand that hugs get a little harder to come by.  The other day I was teasing him and begging him for a hug and he teased  back telling  me that he could not hug me because of COVID.  I told him if I had to choose between a hug from him and the possibility of getting COVID, I would choose a hug from him every day.  Shouldn’t our loved ones in long term care communities get to make the same choice?  Shouldn’t they be able to decide if they want to spend their last birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, without a hug from a child or spouse?

I am not suggesting throwing the barn doors wide open and have a visitation free for all. Any visitation must be handled responsibly and has to consider the safety of everyone in the community.  But we have got to start weighing the damage that is being done here in the name of the possibility that someone may get COVID-19.

If you have a loved one in a long-term care community, I urge you to talk to the management and find out what can be done to give the resident and their family a say in how they spend the rest of their life. After weighing the options, everyone may very well decide that the status quo is what is best for them.   But can we just not accept it as the way it has to be for those who have weighed the risks and want to do something different?   

It may mean that any visitor show proof they are negative for COVID.  It may mean they have to wear a mask, gloves or even a gown.  It may mean that your loved one will be required to stay in their room if they are not already restricted to their room.  But find out if something different can be done.    

Unfortunately, it looks like we will be dealing with COVID-19 for a while.  I hope that our long-term communities can figure out how to manage the risks while still allowing families and residents to safely spend quality time together.  If you are looking at moving into a long-term care community, find  out what their rules are in dealing with COVID and under what circumstances you would be allowed to visit with your loved one.

If you or a loved one need extra help, but don’t want to make the move to a long-term community until the COVID restrictions are over, postpone the move, not the care.  Contact Home Helpers Home Care or another home care agency to get help now.

Beth Dow is a Dementia and Alzheimer’s Educator, CAEd, Geriatric Case Manager and Certified Senior Advisor. Contact her at [email protected].

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