Bob Roth

Bob Roth

If Arizona lifts its stay-at-home orders next month, vulnerable groups, like the elderly, will be asked to continue to shelter in place.

Many older adults living in nursing homes have significant underlying health conditions and are extremely vulnerable to experiencing serious complications from COVID-19. Since the beginning of this epidemic in the U.S., some of the most severe clusters of the disease have been in long-term-care centers.

“Coronavirus in a nursing home can be like fire through dry grass,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a press briefing. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services since mid-March have instructed nursing homes to stop admitting most visitors and nonessential personnel, in an effort to prevent the introduction of COVID-19.

The potential for infection quickly wreaking havoc in this setting, combined with the inability of families to visit relatives and check on them in-person, has people wondering whether they should bring a parent or loved one back home. It has been extremely difficult to know how to react to the ongoing news of outbreaks in nursing homes across the country.

I have many colleagues and friends that are working in long-term care facilities, nursing homes, assisted living and independent living communities. They, along with their staffs, are heroes on the front lines. They are challenged by the many risks associated with this outbreak, including those that come along with locking down their buildings. Keeping residents in their rooms and restricting visits from family is extremely difficult.

When things start to reopen, there will be the question of what to do with an aging loved one. If you were able to assist in the care of your family member as a result of being furloughed, you will have to decide what to do when you return to work.

As we prepare to open our state, what are you going to do with your aging loved one?

Is your loved one able to stay independent enough to live in their home or with you while you are at work? If the answer is yes, but they will still need some assistance with activities of daily living — getting dressed, bathing, meal preparation, medication reminders, fall precaution, transportation or companionship — is there another family member or friend who can assist? If not, I highly recommend that you engage a home care agency.

But when you do, know what to ask. Many families are balancing the risks of non-family members coming into their homes and the benefits of trained caregivers supporting their loved one’s critical needs. While home can still be the safest place for your loved one, all home care agencies are not created equally.

Be sure you’re working with an agency that prioritizes the health and well-being of your family and their caregivers — and has systems and protocols in place to support your safety.

Look for examples of resources agencies have made available, such as a dedicated COVID-19 response team that will work to update its policies and procedures to support safer practices. Policies like these will let you know an agency is doing all it can to keep your loved one safe.

These are certainly challenging times, especially for our aging loved ones. We will get through this storm together. JN

Bob Roth is the managing partner of Cypress HomeCare Solutions.

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