The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have been far-reaching for the millions of families with aging loved ones, leaving many adult children anxious about more than their parents’ immediate health.
More than 77 million baby boomers turn 65 years old –a rate of 10,000 per day –with the Census predicting that seniors will outnumber children by 2035. Each of these individuals will ultimately need some level of care and aging support.
This care will fall mainly onto the shoulders of family members who will either become the primary caregiver or must navigate the many considerations of senior care options. In a restrictive pandemic environment, trying to make the best strategic, financial, social, and safety-conscious choices is challenging.
Choosing Assisted Living
More than two million of our senior Americans have moved of their own accord, or been relocated at the behest of their children, into long term care communities, many of which provide the daily care support and the amenities one could find in an elegant hotel.
Today’s assisted living developments offer “carefree” living with ample leisure time, peer connections, meal preparation, transportation, and minimal caregiving support. Those communities with transitional living options allow seniors to move within the property to higher levels of care.
But with the stringent COVID-19 health protocols, maintaining a healthy and well-trained staff has become exceedingly difficult. Add to this that residents are mandated to remain socially-isolated from family and peers, feelings of anxiety and depression are increasing and reports of neglect are on the rise. In the case of loved ones diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related disease, one of the most critical components of quality care is knowing the person’s habits, disease stage, personality, and quirks. These tasks take time and attention; short-staffing hurts.
According to the U.S. Elder Justice Council, an initiative funded by the U.S. Dept. of Justice and supported by the Dept. of Health and Human Services, a lack of adequate staffing is one of the primary factors affecting preventable harm in seniors and costing $2.8 billion in Medicare hospital costs alone. These statistics were gathered before the pandemic.
Aging in a Private Residence or Family Home
The National Council on Aging reports that nine out of 10 seniors plan to continue living in their current homes for another five to 10 years. The most significant reason for doing so is that they like where they live and have family and friends nearby. At least 66% do not want the hassle of moving, which includes the difficult decisions of selecting what personal items will fit into often much smaller accommodations and how to manage the actual move.
A benefit to aging in place at home is the independence of choice, especially during COVID-19 quarantine requirements. Mom or dad is free to pick who they socialize with, what hobbies they pursue, and create their schedule as they desire. For disease prevention, living independently also allows one to self-select contact with others.
There are downsides to aging in place: potential social or mobility-related isolation, home maintenance concerns, safety from falls or other injuries, and the costs of dealing with the unexpected.
Cutting Risk, Enhancing Life with a Professional Caregiver
Many families avoid the downsides of senior living communities or aging at home by introducing a professional caregiver to mom or dad.
Spouses and family members can work with companion care companies like Georgia-based Angel Companions to tailor non-medical care specific to the needs and schedules of their loved ones.
In senior communities, a professional caregiver can fill in the gaps and support a busy staff. They are an excellent liaison for family members unable to visit loved ones, and they can be of tremendous support during a loved one’s final days as emotion and obligations collide.
In the home, in addition to supporting activities of daily living, professional caregivers can perform a variety of tasks designed to enhance aging in place and family integrity. Managing social engagements and hobbies, meal prep, performing light housekeeping, shopping, and attending medical appointments are among the tasks that many families integrate into a care plan.
Health and Financial Benefit of Companion Care
In the United States, 16 percent of elderly adults with Medicare insurance return to the hospital within 30 days of discharge. Top reasons for readmission include confusion-related mistakes, improper follow-up care, or not understanding how to care for an aged love one properly.
In addition to being an extra hand – and heart –the use of professional caregivers has been shown to lower these rates, which reduces insurance costs and positively affects overall health.
Most of all for families, professional caregivers provide peace of mind for that mom and dad will remain safe, secure, and at peace as they age in the place they call home.
Lisa Parks is a marketing and communications consultant, and Alzheimer’s Community Educator, who advocates for seniors and people with disabilities. www.imagecomgroup.com