The coronavirus pandemic has changed a lot about the way we live. And if you are the caretaker of a senior, particularly one with a rapidly-declining condition, you may be struggling with how to make informed decisions on their behalf in the midst of the panic. Here is some advice that may help during this situation.
Understand Their Needs
Before you make any kind of decision about their current or long-term care, you must first understand what, exactly, they need today and in the future. If your loved one is suffering from cognitive decline or showing signs of an altered mental state, you may not have much time. In this instance, their needs may involve hands-on care around-the-clock. They might need assistance with simple, everyday activities, like bathing, eating, and answering the telephone.
Know Your Options
When you think about long-term care, your first thought is probably a nursing home. While this is certainly one option, there are many others. Levels of long-term care are graduated based on your seniors’ needs. A reasonably active individual may, for example, simply require someone to come in a few times per week to clean and prepare meals. As their abilities began to wane, they may find it necessary for significant assistance, which SeniorLiving.org defines as needing help five times per week. This may be provided via in-home care or through adult daycare services.
The next step would be to move your loved one into an independent or assisted-living center. Independent living has fewer restrictions than assisted-living, although the latter provides more intensive services. The option for memory or nursing care may be available at an assisted living center for seniors whose abilities continue to change for the worse.
Get Legally and Financially Prepared
One of the most important things you can do as a caretaker during a pandemic is to ensure that you have your legal documents ready in case of an emergency. These should include a durable power of attorney and an advanced health care directive. Your senior loved one may also have a living will or a “do not resuscitate” order. Make sure to have copies of their trust and any other legal documents that name you as beneficiary or executor.
Something else to consider is a matter of finances. Paying for long-term or end-of-life care is expensive. If your senior does not have the cash assets to do so, it may be necessary to sell their home. Fortunately, you can sidestep many of the potential health risks of doing so by asking your realtor to use video chat, virtual open houses, and 3D walkthrough tours. This can help weed out buyers who are not 100 percent serious about moving forward with the purchase while protecting the health of your senior if they are still living in the home. Redfin suggests avoiding official open houses and limiting in-person showings to no more than two people.
Open communication is essential when making long-term care plans. And even if your senior is suffering from Alzheimer’s, talking to them can help get a better idea of their wants. Unfortunately, less than half of adult children actually know what their parents want, which is unfortunate. If you are put into a position to make a decision without their input, you may feel guilt or concern and wonder if you made the right one. Ask them questions to guide you; this could include anything from how close they wish to be to family to whether or not they prefer a male or female doctor. Any input you receive is valuable.
The coronavirus is most serious for older adults. This is due to a number of factors, including overall health and underlying conditions. And even if your senior is not affected, there has never been a better time to know what they want and how you will provide it.