What the Pandemic Has Taught Us About Planning
Thinking about future living arrangements for yourself or an older loved one can be daunting. In 2020 the realities brought on by the coronavirus pandemic have given us even more to think about. Here’s how we at LifeCare Advocates have updated our planning advice in four key areas based on what we’ve seen during this pandemic.
As Life Care Managers we often help our clients evaluate their environment to ensure it meets their needs now and can accommodate future changes that may arise.
This step may include looking at options such as independent or assisted living. As the COVID crisis (hopefully) abates, many families will be re-evaluating these choices through a new lens. For example, think of the extreme isolation and challenges many people faced when sheltering in place. Would living in a setting where you have access to companionship, connection, meals, and other accommodations be more reassuring?
If you want to age in place, can your home accommodate any changes in mobility that might happen? What if you need additional help or equipment?
Health and well-being
Access to healthcare during the COVID crisis became difficult, and even risky. The coronavirus amplified the reality that there is always an inherent risk or challenge for older adults in seeking healthcare in places where exposure could increase the risk of infection.
Given those realities, telehealth may be here to stay. Prepare by setting up technology now and ensuring you or your loved one knows how to use it and has ready access to support.
Similarly, online ordering and auto-deliveries of medications may be a best practice at all times. Your local pharmacy may have a prescription prepackaging service, as do larger providers such as CVS and Amazon. There are also devices that can be pre-filled for a month.
As we all know, it has been hard or impossible to buy critical supplies like toilet paper, sanitary wipes, hand sanitizer, and masks during the pandemic. As stores restock, replenish your supply of these items and any other nonperishable products needed for health conditions.
If you cannot be in direct contact with your loved one regularly, or if you live alone, consider fall detection, security and other monitoring systems. There are, of course, ethical considerations associated with using this technology—but all things considered, these systems can be literally lifesaving.
Ensuring adequate nutrition during the pandemic became a challenge for many who live in their own homes. Arranging for grocery delivery was an afterthought, and it was hard to help older adults set up deliveries from afar.
Getting deliveries arranged, apps downloaded, and regular shopping lists cued up can be a proactive step when the need is no longer urgent. Consider using a meal prep service that meets dietary needs and preferences.
Of course, food and nutritional concerns weren’t an issue for people in assisted living residences and other senior living facilities—another advantage to choosing that option.
Social isolation affects one in five adults and is said to be as detrimental as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Many people who have been isolated during the pandemic experienced considerable cognitive decline, depression, and anxiety. Even in assisted living and skilled nursing facilities, isolation became necessary at the height of the virus.
Planning for the future should include ways to satisfy our need for engagement and connection while staying separate if necessary. There are now numerous online opportunities, including virtual museum tours, music and exercise classes. A critical factor, however, is having technology that is easily usable for all ages.
Some tech companies offer assistance virtually, as well as in person when that becomes an option again. There are also devices for people with cognitive impairment that require little if any action on their part.
Getting your or your loved one’s home set up for this type of engagement now and becoming comfortable with FaceTime, Zoom, and other communication tools will be well worth the effort.
Create your playbook now
Whether you’re a caregiver or are planning for your own future, thinking through these various scenarios and creating an “If/then” playbook can be a great way to reduce stress. We at LifeCare Advocates would be happy to lend a hand.