More than ever before, families can benefit during this pandemic from having a case manager monitor their aging loved ones’ health and well-being, whether they’re living at home or in a facility. I have continued to advocate for my clients, ease their isolation and loneliness, monitor their care, facilitate communication between seniors and their families with technologies such as FaceTime, and keep family members informed of how things are going.
My clients who live in facilities have endured multiple and extended lockdowns and many have not seen their family members for weeks or months. This has been especially difficult for individuals who have Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, and don’t understand why they’ve been ‘abandoned’ or why caregivers are wearing masks and other personal protective equipment, or PPE.
My client “Bill,” 92 years old, was especially disturbed by the fact he hadn’t seen his only daughter, Becky, since March. Becky lived in another state but usually made the trip to see her father at least once every couple of months. However, the nursing facility that Bill lived in had been closed to visitors for months by order of the state governor. When the visiting ban was lifted, Becky was unable to travel due to her own health issues, and the quarantine restrictions that would be placed upon her when she returned home.
Becky had hired me to assess and monitor her father’s health and his medical care, and essentially be her ‘eyes and ears.’ Bill looked forward to the FaceTime visits with Becky that I arranged for him, and it gave her peace of mind to know that I was looking out for his welfare during this difficult time. On several occasions the nursing facility was locked down again due to outbreaks of COVID infection, but fortunately Bill did not become sick.
It will likely be months before a coronavirus vaccine is widely distributed to all segments of the population, and even then life may not go ‘back to normal.’ Long-term immunity from the coronavirus remains to be seen, and there are many unknowns. What is a certainty is that seniors and their families will face the same issues they do today: how to best navigate the healthcare system, access resources such as benefits and entitlements, ensure a safe living environment, and get quality care. I have heard from so many of the families that I work with that a case manager by their side has been essential during this crisis, and has improved their loved ones’ quality of life.
There’s no telling what the next crisis will be. For some, it may not be as big and far-reaching as a pandemic; it may be a fall or a health crisis that lands them in the hospital, or it may be mental and physical changes that can happen with aging. Whatever the concerns are, a case manager can help seniors and their families manage these challenges, find the services they need, provide guidance through complex issues and transitions of care, and relieve caregiver stress.
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