Balancing COVID Concerns with Health Care Needs

Last spring, escalating COVID-19 cases prompted us to delay my 89-year-old mother’s cataract surgery until she couldn’t tell the difference between her cat and a couch pillow. Finally, when we felt reassured by the safety protocols implemented by her ophthalmology clinic, we scheduled the procedure. In hindsight, I wish we hadn’t waited so long, but fear can be paralyzing—especially when the fear is not completely unreasonable.

The reality of age-related risk

We’re constantly learning more and more about the novel coronavirus, but in many ways, the virus still confounds us. However, one thing we know for certain is that the chances of becoming severely ill and dying from COVID-19 increase with age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that adults age 65 and older account for 8 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths in the United States. Based on this sobering statistic, it’s understandable that many seniors have stayed about from their clinic, hospital, or emergency room.

According to a poll by the American College of Emergency Physicians, 80% of adults said they were concerned about contracting COVID-19 from another patient or visitor, and 29% have actively delayed or avoided seeking medical care for the same reason.

Yet postponing care can be dangerous, especially for people with serious illnesses or chronic medical conditions. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that in the states with the most COVID-19 fatalities, deaths in 2020 not related to COVID-19 jumped in March and April, compared with January and February. Results from that study showed that deaths tied to diabetes increased by 96%, heart disease by 89%, Alzheimer’s disease by 64%, and stroke by 35%.

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Making health care safer

Early in the pandemic, assisted living facilities were hit especially hard, causing many older adults and their families to be wary of allowing caregivers into their homes. “Initially, we saw a dramatic drop in client visits,” said Ati  Vainuku, Operations Manager at Homespire. “But even during a pandemic people need care, and as more families avoided contact with their loved ones to prevent accidental transmission, there was an even greater call for Homespire’s services.”

It took a little while to regain client trust. “What helped most was educating people on everything we’re doing to protect clients and staff,” she said. Those measures include personal protective equipment (PPE), hand hygiene, daily health screenings, frequent COVID tests, CDC-guided competency training on how to don and doff gloves, masks, and gowns, and limiting the number of caregivers to one or two for each client.

Homespire helps reduce hospital and emergency care visits by facilitating virtual visits. And they provide much needed check-ins filling a role that many family caregivers held prior to this pandemic. Homespire team members are essential to keeping seniors healthy and independent longer, even in a pandemic. “For seniors who aren’t comfortable going into the clinic, and don’t have access to a computer or a smartphone, we bring in a laptop and connect them to their doctor on Zoom,” said Ati. “Our goal is address health concerns before they become health care crises and we have the flexibility to get creative in how we support seniors health and wellbeing”

To learn how Homespire’s whole person approach can help you and your loved one enjoy an inspired life—during the pandemic and beyond—schedule a free consultation or call us at 801-503-3210.