COVID-19 has changed our daily lives. From how we work to how we communicate, we are all trying to navigate change and find our new normal. For families with loved ones in nursing and assisted living homes, this has been a particularly challenging time. Finding new ways to stay connected and continuing to provide love, care and safety takes an emotional toll—both on the caregiver and their loved one.
Recently, I stood outside a nursing facility’s front door to assist a resident with the notarization of a document. Her daughter stood beside me. It was the first time mother and daughter had seen each other in weeks. After fond goodbyes, the door closed, and I remained outside with the daughter to notarize additional documents. I glimpsed at the window behind me and discovered mom, looking at her daughter with love and longing. Instead of returning to her room, she lingered to see her daughter a few more minutes. This brief and bittersweet interaction was the highlight of their day, and it touched me deeply, too.
Now more than ever, staying connected to the people we love is critical. Across the country, and in our own community, visitor restrictions and social distancing protocols have been put in place to protect the health of this population. Adults ages 65 and older are among the most vulnerable populations at high risk for contracting COVID-19. According to the CDC, 8 out of 10 deaths reported in the U.S. have been in adults age 65 old and older. That statistic alone is enough to cause worry.
It’s natural to be concerned for the older adults in your family. Social isolation can lead to a greater increase in symptoms of depression and anxiety. And the sad reality is that individuals of all ages are dying from this disease. However, there are several actions you can take to ensure your loved one is protected and cared for—and manage your own worry—during these challenging times.
Make sure estate plans and living wills are up to date
This is especially imperative for not only your loved one but also your own estate plan and living will if your health is compromised and you can no longer care for your loved one or pass away. Health care and financial powers of attorney are particularly important. Who will make medical or financial decisions for you if you cannot? And who is the backup if your agent is unavailable due to their own health problems or need to self-quarantine?
If your loved one has access to a mobile phone, tablet or computer, they can benefit from seeing you and hearing your voice. Platforms such as FaceTime, Zoom and Skype are popular and easy to use. Check with staff at the care community for their availability to assist your loved one.
Create a Care Package
Drop off a care package for your loved including some of their favorite things. Avoid homemade food as everything needs to be wiped off at the door.
Engage Their Minds
Provide your loved one with puzzles, Sudoku, crosswords, word searches, adult coloring books, playing cards, magazine subscriptions, and craft supplies to keep their minds engaged.
Show Your Love
Send flowers. Send cards. Write sidewalk chalk messages outside their facility. Visit them at their window.
Music for the Soul
Load some of your loved one’s favorite music on an MP3 player, share a playlist through iTunes or Spotify, or drop off some CDs.
Acts of Kindness
Show your appreciation for the staff at your loved one’s facility. Donate cleaning supplies. Drop off goody bags. Send a card or wrapped candy bars. Buy lunch.
Above all, hang in there! This is a new path on the elder care journey, and one that can be successfully navigated through creativity, kindness, and perseverance. Please contact us today to discuss elder law planning.
Dennis Toman is a Certified Elder Law Attorney in Greensboro.