The COVID-19 pandemic has radically impacted life in the United States and around the world. After enduring several weeks of strict lockdown and social distancing requirements in an effort to slow the rate of infection, states are slowly beginning to reopen businesses and government services.
But that doesn’t mean everything is simply going back to normal. Restaurants are operating at reduced capacity, offices are rearranging their workspaces, and masks have become a near-ubiquitous sight in many cities. Given these circumstances, many families are wondering what elderly care should look like in a post-lockdown world.
How Has the Pandemic Changed the Future of Elder Care?
Seniors continue to face the greatest danger from COVID-19. According to the latest research, the novel coronavirus has an 8.6% mortality rate in patients 70 or older and a 13.4% mortality rate in patients 80 and older. As medical researchers learn more about the virus, it’s becoming clear that the combination of comorbidities and weakened immune systems due to natural aging is responsible for this increased susceptibility.
Given the high stakes involved, it’s incredibly important for anyone providing elder care to stay informed and take as many precautionary measures as possible. Nursing homes and similar care facilities are particularly vulnerable. They are full of residents who are not only more susceptible to infection, but many of which require direct assistance from caregivers to perform everyday functions. These caregivers can unknowingly become vectors for further transmission when they return home or travel to work at different facilities. Many elder care facilities use common spaces to promote greater socialization among residents, and this can make social distancing much more difficult to enforce.
When looking at all of these risk factors, it’s hardly surprising that nursing homes have accounted for so many COVID-19 deaths. In California, for instance, nearly half of the state’s coronavirus deaths were nursing home residents. But California also offers some reason for optimism. Facilities like the San Francisco Center for Jewish Living (SFCJL) moved quickly in the early days of the pandemic to institute measures like screening visitors, issuing masks to residents and staff members, and working with local authorities to regularly test caregivers. While some of this success was due to the relatively low infection rates in the San Francisco area, there’s no question that putting a plan in place early played a role in saving lives.
Of course, the ideal solution is to allow seniors to remain at home, where they can better control their environment and are less likely to suffer from depression and cognitive decline. The challenge here is making sure that they are able to take the proper social distancing precautions to protect themselves. Just because your aging loved one is staying at home instead of an elder care facility doesn’t mean they’re automatically protected from the threat of COVID-19. Their underlying vulnerability makes it vital that you take additional steps to keep them safe and healthy.
When is it Safe to Return to Our Normal Elderly Care Routine?
While there may be a tense debate over whether or not it’s the right time for businesses to reopen, the heightened risks facing seniors simply cannot be ignored. Any viable plan to reopen states and cities will need to be accompanied by policies designed to protect the elderly.
Unfortunately, that will likely mean adjusting to a “new” normal rather than returning to your pre-pandemic elderly care routines. Until an effective treatment or vaccine is widely available, you should continue to take precautionary measures when providing elderly care to your loved ones. This is especially important if you are returning to your work routine because you could potentially become a vector for transmission.
Some simple elderly care tips to follow:
- Wash your hands frequently (and sanitize them if possible).
- Minimize unnecessary physical contact.
- Maintain a 6-foot distance if possible, especially if you’re exposed to other people regularly.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
You should also make sure that your aging loved one follows as many of these precautions as possible. If they plan on leaving the house, they should wear a cloth mask and gloves to limit the potential for transmission in public spaces where social distancing is difficult or impossible. Make sure they understand that even people who appear healthy could be asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic carriers.
What Elderly Care Services are Available as Businesses Reopen?
Fortunately, there are a variety of services available to help seniors meet their needs during this difficult time. The most common example is delivery services that make it easy to have food and other household essentials sent straight to their doorstep. In addition to the numerous national delivery services like Instacart and Shipt, many communities have seen volunteers step up to provide free deliveries to seniors.
Of course, your aging loved ones need more than just groceries to live a healthy and fulfilling life. The stress of social distancing has caused many seniors to feel isolated and depressed. Luckily, there are a variety of programs that help to connect older people with young volunteers who can take the time to talk to them over the phone or through video conferencing software. These regular calls can help your aging loved one feel less isolated and allow them to engage with young people who are eager to learn about their life and experiences.
With people over the age of 65 making up nearly a quarter of weekly churchgoing attendees, many seniors will be looking to return to the pews as states ease their lockdown restrictions. While attending church may be an important part of your aging loved one’s social and spiritual life, it’s critical that you make sure their church is taking the necessary precautions to preserve the health and safety of their congregations. If they’re not comfortable returning, find out if the church provides online services to help vulnerable seniors stay involved.
Prepare for the Future with Homethrive
At Homethrive, we’re committed to helping you meet the evolving needs of your aging loved ones. That’s why we’ve assembled a support system of experienced Care Guides who can help you navigate the physical, emotional, and logistical challenges that come with caring for seniors at home. With a dedicated Care Guide available around the clock, you can get the information and resources you need to protect your aging loved ones from the threat of COVID-19 as you both transition into a post-lockdown world. To learn more about Homethrive’s support services, schedule a call to talk to us today.