More than 41 million Americans are responsible for some form of family caregiving for adults 50 and older – like a parent, parent-in-law, spouse, or grandparent. Under normal circumstances, the physical, emotional, and financial challenges faced by family caregivers are tremendous. But the COVID-19 pandemic has made caring for older loved ones even more trying and the challenges are exacerbated. And, we’re all trying to figure it out as we go.
Seniors are an at-risk population. Quarantines, lockdowns, and social distancing prevent many families from seeing their aging loved ones in-person. And so, the stress, fear, and anxiety are heightened. You want to help, but you don’t want to put them at further risk. What can you do?
If you’re struggling to figure out how to care for your loved ones in the middle of a global pandemic, you’re not alone. We’ve highlighted five of the most common questions and concerns we’re hearing from families during this crisis and how a Senior Care Advisor from Care@Work can help.
What should I do if I’m worried about my loved one’s health and safety?
Since we can’t physically be with our loved ones, many of us have fallen into the difficult role of long-distance caregiver. This can make it hard to ensure that our loved one is staying healthy and safe. How do you know that their needs are getting met? Are they exercising the right precautions? The answers to these questions are different for every family.
Start by identifying your loved one’s needs. From there, implement supports to help with these tasks if it’s either not safe or they can’t perform the tasks themselves. You may have to compromise in some areas as typical supports may not be available, and focus instead on the most important aspects, like safety. For instance, if your loved one doesn’t feel safe going to the grocery store or pharmacy, consider setting up home delivery through services like Instacart, Peapod, CVS, Walgreens, or Amazon Fresh to make sure they’re getting food, prescriptions, and household supplies. If your loved one has dementia, it can especially difficult to keep them safe during this time. Your Senior Care Advisor can help identify solutions for your specific situation and provide tailored guidance and support.
How do I “visit” my loved one when I can’t physically be there?
Human beings are social creatures by nature. But during this crisis, we may not be able to interact with our loved ones like we normally would. That’s left many seniors – nearly one third of whom who live outside of nursing homes live alone – at increased risk of social isolation. And while most people think loneliness just means being sad, loneliness is as life-threatening as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Families are getting creative. Many are using technology to stay connected and engaged, even with loved ones who aren’t the most tech-savvy. Video chats, phone calls, and virtual book or movie clubs are just some of the ways to stay social when you can’t physically be there. If technology really isn’t an option, consider mailing letters or cards and include pictures of your family. Window visits or drive-bys in the car with the grandkids are also fun ways to say “hi” while maintaining a safe distance. Your Senior Care Advisor can discuss with your family ideas that work for you and your loved one to keep communication and social connection going.
Is it safe for my loved one to be in a hospital or nursing home?
You may fear that nursing homes are a breeding ground for the virus, but it’s possible that your loved one may be safer in one than at home. Each situation is unique, and there are several things to consider when evaluating where might be the safest location for your loved one. Their safety, care needs, and care wishes are all important factors in determining the best and safest place. Choosing between the lesser of two evils can feel daunting, and there may not be a perfect solution. Your Senior Care Advisor can help you navigate these tough decisions, offer critical guidance, and assist with weighing the options.
With so many businesses and services closed, how do I know what resources are available for my loved one?
Your Senior Care Advisor is staying up-to-date on the changing landscape and available resources so you don’t have to. For example, while many adult day centers are closed right now, you may be able to line up in-home care for additional support. Considering a move into a senior living community? We’ll let you know which facilities are accepting new residents and how you can access a virtual tour to help you make the right decision.
How am I supposed to manage it all?
Taking care of yourself is not a luxury; it’s a discipline. It takes practice. Still, you may feel overwhelmed or have moments where you break down. That’s normal. It’s okay not to be okay. I’ve heard it said several times during this pandemic that we may all be in the same storm, but we’re not all in the same boat. Accept good enough and know when to reach out for support. Establish boundaries, and delegate tasks to others where and when you can. This all may sound easier said than done, and, in many ways, it is. But this is also an area where your Senior Care Advisor can be of service. He or she can work with you to set realistic expectations, find ways to take small breaks, and help you take care of yourself.
Despite all the uncertainty, fear, and worry, you may have experienced little moments that fill your heart and bring you joy. Families are finding creative ways to stay connected, and they’re spending more time together than they normally would. More phone calls and FaceTimes. More check-ins and virtual hugs. More “I love yous.” When you feel frustrated and overwhelmed, focus on those. Remember to breathe. And remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Your Senior Care Advisor is standing by.
Need help? The Senior Care Solutions team can be reached at (855) 781-1303 ext. 3, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.