By now, we all understand that the elderly and those with underlying conditions are at greater risk for serious illness as a result of COVID-19. We also know that close living conditions increase the likelihood of community spread.
“For those with loved ones in nursing facilities, the pandemic can become even more stressful. Family members may be worried about an older adult’s care, who they are sharing living quarters with, and how their loved one will maintain their routine medical care,” said Carmel Dyer, MD, a geriatrician with UT Physicians and executive vice chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “While this isn’t an easy situation to deal with, there are a few strategies you can put into place that will alleviate some of your anxiety and concerns.”
Understand visitation and screening policies
Since the initial COVID-19 outbreak, long-term care facilities have tightened their visitation and screening guidelines. Many older adult living centers have implemented strict visitation policies for family members and friends. This can be difficult for loved ones to accept but it’s for your protection as well as that of the residents. Facilities also are screening their staff members to ensure that no one who is ill provides care for an older adult.
Take advantage of telehealth
When seeking medical care for issues unrelated to COVID-19, a good idea is to explore telehealth options for your loved one. They can connect with their provider via phone or video from the comfort and safety of their nursing facility. If your loved one does have any immediate medical issues that need to be addressed, check to see if routine blood work and/or medical exams can be postponed to a later date.
Discuss your loved one’s wishes
Take some time to discuss with family members what their wishes are. If they end up getting sick, do they want to go to the hospital? Would they wish to undergo intubation and resuscitation? Even when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic, it’s important for family members to know the wishes of older adults and be able to honor them.
Consult with your loved one’s physicians
Talk to your loved one’s physicians or advanced practice providers regarding facility care. Some families may choose to bring an older adult home with them during the pandemic. For others, this is not feasible as some older adults require a team to care for them. Every situation is different and there is no cookie-cutter approach. UT Physicians is here to help guide older adults and their caregivers on their individual needs.
Take good care of yourself
As a caregiver or family member, your health is tied to the health and well-being of the older adult. You may be called upon to help in new ways during this pandemic. Make sure you get plenty of rest, eat well, exercise, and avoid or manage stress so you’re ready should the needs of your loved one change.
For more resources on how to care for older adults during the coronavirus outbreak, visit the American Geriatrics Society’s Health in Aging. Visit our information center for facts and updates related to COVID-19.
If you are caring for a senior loved one at home and would like to schedule a telehealth visit with a geriatrician, visit https://www.utphysicians.com/patients/appointment/. Click the box that says “telehealth.”