17 Mar Caregiving during the Coronavirus: How to Protect and Engage Seniors at Home in Philadelphia
The elderly are confronted with a potentially life-threatening risk if they become infected with the coronavirus (COVID-19). It has caused deaths around the world for those 60 and older, starting in China and now making a major impact right here in Philadelphia, the greater Delaware Valley, and around the world.
The coronavirus can affect people at any age, and elders and those with compromised immunity are always at additional risk than the general population. However, in this case the virus disproportionately affects seniors. While it’s difficult still to properly estimate the fatality rate for the disease, estimates are that around 15 percent of those over the age of 80 and 2.3 percent for the general population, according to JAMA.
One of the biggest sources of deaths of coronavirus occurred in Washington state, where 18 residents of a nursing home have died from an outbreak there. Since then, 10 more assisted living facilities (ALF) and skilled nursing facilities (SNF) in the Seattle area have had outbreaks.
Protecting elders while providing care
An important question remains for Philadelphia residents, how do we protect the most vulnerable members of our population from the coronavirus, even if we are providing the hands-on care that they need?
You may have noticed that senior care facilities have all but banned visitors from entering and visiting. This is a drastic step taken to reduce the risk for those most vulnerable. So you may be asking yourself, what about seniors and loved ones in their home? The best advice would be to limit as much contact as possible. However, if you are providing direct care to them, this can be a challenge. Certainly, try to offer assistance as much as you always do, but you will need to take significant precautions when not around your seniors.
Social distancing has become the new norm during this period, and if you are providing hands-on care to a loved one you should heed these warnings seriously. For certain, you should minimize your contact with other individuals as much as possible to reduce the chance of spreading the virus to your elder loved one. Read our blog about proper hand washing and care which is beneficial for both caregivers and elders alike.
Additionally, if there is more than one family or friend providing care, it would be beneficial to designate only one person during this time, if possible. As a general rule, the less individuals in contact with a loved one, the better. And, the less contact that those individuals receive through their daily lives is also better to ensure the safety of their loved one.
If you stay away, you should maximize safety measures in your absence or the absence of other loved ones. Consider our blog post on home safety tips to enact and review to provide additional peace of mind.
If you are forced to reduce direct contact with your loved one, you can still check in. The options for technological solutions are endless, and many you probably already have available. For starters, you have Skype, FaceTime, and of course your everyday phone calls and texts. Be sure to touch base regularly to not only ensure safety but also as a measure of companionship for your loved one.
There are, also, things like Granny Cams which are much more invasive but may offer comfort for loved ones and assist in ensuring safety. Read more about some technologies available to implement for your loved one.
Isolate, don’t idle
Senior isolation is a major concern among our nation’s elders. In situations like these where friends and family want to visit but can’t, or are limiting contact, it can be a struggle. You can still encourage your loved one to remain engaged in other ways.
This article offers advice on how to try every streaming service for free for those on a budget during the crisis. There are also ways to see museums, exhibits, symphonies, and operas virtually, right from your couch. Thankfully, organizations have been expanding these opportunities since the crisis began. Read more about that here.
An older person alone doesn’t have to be lonely. If your loved one reads, ship them some books or order them ebooks to keep them engaged. You can also encourage many other activities, from games, activities and hobbies to learn, or at-home exercises. Here are some other ideas from our recent blog post on activities to keep seniors engaged that are more than just TV.
Use community resources
Find your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) in and around Philadelphia. Those include in the five county region:
- Philadelphia Corporation for Aging
- Delaware County Office on Aging
- Chester County Aging Services
- Bucks County AAA
- Montgomery County Senior Services
They can assess the situation and offer solutions. Be aware that many senior centers may be closed during these times due to concerns about close contact.
Non-profit organizations are making a major contribution locally and can also help. Faith-based organizations are additional levels of support here in Philadelphia. We are also seeing neighbors stepping up to help each other during difficult times, so it’s great to lean on the local community.
Add home care services
Consider offering formal home care services like Chosen Family Home Care. The best home care agencies have contingency plans for emergent situations like the coronavirus. Chosen Family can implement strong support through its compassionate caregivers and the clients receiving care. They have strict protocols for safety during this period as well.