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Aging population coping with coronavirus

You probably don’t know this, but these columns are written about two to three weeks in advance. I send them to the editor one week before they’re published. As is obvious now, things change daily, so I’m hoping this is still current and relevant by the time you’re reading it.

Given that everyone is on high alert due to the coronavirus, it seemed important to share some of what has happened recently. Some of these situations might well have changed again. Still, I think you’ll find this interesting and informative.

Here are examples of some of my client’s lives these past few of weeks. This was at the beginning of the community putting safety precautions in place, especially for this older population. One man had been living in memory care in Ashland. He unfortunately fell and broke his hip. He had surgery and was moved to one of the skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) in Medford. He’s being rehabilitated, and naturally, everyone hoped he could return to his memory care facility. At the point of writing this, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has ordered that there are no new admissions or re-admissions to facilities such as memory care, until further notice. For now, he’s going to remain at the SNF. Of course, Medicare only pays a portion of the costs after day 20, and we’re monitoring to see if Medicare is planning to make adjustments for cases like this. (Current update: He will most likely be able to return to memory care once his rehab is complete. They have a new screening procedure in place to assure his and everyone’s health and safety.)

Another person was living independently in her own home, but getting ready to move into a memory care community in Medford. She has been waiting for all her medical records to be assessed prior to her admission. While waiting, this crisis occurred, and now, this memory care community can no longer take in new residents. So, she’s going to have to bring in round-the-clock caregivers to manage her needs until this changes. (Update: She was given the go-ahead to move into memory care. But now, they won’t allow the movers in. Also, they are now waiting for testing results on someone else connected to the community.) We’re still not sure for how long admissions and re-admissions to any facilities will be permitted. It’s still being determined what sorts of testing might be required at some point as well. Truly, day-to-day decisions.

Agencies that provide caregivers in the home are also coping with this crisis. If a caregiver has any signs of illness, they are instructing them to stay home. It’s going to cause a potential shortage of caregivers in the home. Many families caring for their loved ones at home have opted to cancel paid caregivers. They’re trying to minimize their risk of exposure. Naturally, this will impact the family caregiver quite a bit.

Here’s a suggestion that everyone might consider if caregivers or others are coming to your home. Outside of your front door, or however you enter your home, place a dispenser of hand wipes or sanitizers. If you don’t have any, you can make your own using either a bleach or alcohol solution. (Check online for how to do this.) This person should sanitize their hands thoroughly before entering. Then, use sanitizer and a paper towel to open the door into your home. Go immediate to a sink and wash your hands thoroughly. No one is saying this is fail-proof, but it’s something that might help.

What about people in communities like assisted living, SNFs, memory care, etc., who really can’t leave or have visitors? How can you stay in touch with them? One product the Aging Life Care Association has recommended is the GrandPad: https://bit.ly/2xHBQVm. This is a tablet that’s easy for to use. It provides phone calls, internet, photos, email, music, etc. Many local facilities are also providing tech devices so their residents can stay in touch with loved ones as well.

I will close with a quote by Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky. Someone sent this to me recently from Morning Brew, which provides a podcast and daily email. “Every hand that we don’t shake must become a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern. Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another, must become a thought as to how we might be of help to that other, should the need arise.” Indeed.

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