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Elder Care During COVID-19: Beyond the Headlines

female companion caregiver helping elder to put on a shirt a

Elder Care During COVID-19: Beyond the Headlines

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Despite the elderly population’s increased risk for COVID-19 associated complications and mortality, less than four in 10 nursing home staff accepted immunization when offered, February data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revealed.

“Residents and staff members in long-term care facilities, particularly skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), are at increased risk for COVID-19–associated morbidity and mortality…” the Feb. 5 CDC weekly report stated. This risk was a top reason seniors were prioritized for the first phase of vaccination in the U.S.

Low vaccination numbers among staff were also found for influenza; during the 2017-2018 season, nursing home staff immunization was lower than other healthcare workers.

CDC survey data suggests that skepticism about virus transmission or vaccine effectiveness were factors for resistance to flu vaccination. For the COVID-19 vaccine, October 2020 findings found 37% of nursing home staff expressed a lack of confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine’s safety and efficacy.

A New Role for Home Care

Senior care communities’ visitation restrictions, the potential for super-spreader events, and reported staffing shortages in nursing homes have families justifiably anxious about their loved ones.

“Companion care has a unique ability to fulfill a variety of roles in care settings,” said Angel Companions’ general manager Elizabeth Herrington. “We not only provide exceptional care and attention to our clients in their own homes but are actively engaged in care communities as well, using a single client strategy. “We recognize that companion care can positively affect not only a senior’s day-to-day life but their longer-term health.”

In-Home Care

At the onset of the pandemic, headlines prompted many families to reconsider bringing a caregiver into their home at the risk of introducing the invisible virus.

But as data identifying low vaccination rates among nursing home staff, as well as staff shortages and increased social isolation, many families have expressed the desire to bring mom or dad home, at least during the interim.

“Angel Companions supports our clients’ personal choice,” Herrington said, whether that means living in an independent or assisted living community, their original home, or in temporary relocations with families.”

With caregiver immunization and stringent protocols in place to maximize health safety, Angel Companions not only supports their clients’ personal choice but fulfills a second critical need – their social connectedness.

What the Data Suggests

Fortunately, recent data has suggested that seniors may be less negatively affected by mental health issues reported in other age groups including increased anxiety, depression, and greater substance use, citing greater resilience during isolation.

The caveat to this finding is that it represents only the first few months of the pandemic, according to a November 2020 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association; longer-term outcomes remain unclear,

“The currently available data also do not provide perspectives on subgroups of older adults like those with dementia, those caring for persons with dementia, or those residing in assisted living facilities or nursing homes,” JAMA authors said.

“The effect of comorbid chronic medical or psychiatric conditions also remains unclear thus far. Thus, for older adults experiencing isolation, having more close or meaningful relationships may be protective, rather than just having more interactions with others.”

 Companion Care as Bridge

Angel Companions is prepared to support what companion care looks like for each of their clients as they read the data, deal with personal experiences and decide what is the best fit for their needs.

For families, whose senior lives in a visitation-restricted community, companion care can address non-medical needs for short-staffing situations but also be an easily accessible way to get real-time feedback on a loved one’s care, and consistent, personal connection with a single caregiver. Caregivers can also assist with the technology divide by managing virtual get-togethers, phone, and video calls between family members, especially for those with a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

For seniors choosing to remain in their own home, companion care is an ideal way to manage the general tasks of light housekeeping, bathing, dressing, meal prep, pharmacy, and doctor’s appointments. With the must-dos accomplished, families are freer to spend valuable time in more memorable activities.

Flexibility is Key

As health experts continue to address the pandemic, life will eventually settle into its new normal, but families’ remaining time with their loved ones is limited.

“We realize that many families are facing challenging care situations,” Herrington said, “which is why we offer no-contract, flexible care arrangements. We are here to provide much-needed support and will work to ensure all of our clients are aging well in the place they call home.”

 

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