Ten signs of when you need to be involved:  the Coronavirus factor

Paying attention to situations that can affect the well-being of older adults can make all the difference. The effect of the COVID19 virus has raised the risks of ignoring signs that indicate it is time to intervene.   There are ever-changing regulations, testing regimes, surges in cases, availability of vaccinations, and even access to healthcare. This means there are a lot of factors that families can consider when caring for an older adult.

Here are some signs on when to be concerned:

  1. Families living at a distance: Not only are subtle signs of change easily ignored, but travel restrictions have limited regular interactions by family who would normally be there to notice symptoms.
  2. Changes in emotional state: Those who experience social isolation, limitations in daily living acitivites, vulnerability to serious illness and death has shown increased depression, anxiety and symptoms of mental illness.
  3. Changes in physical condition: Covid doesn’t stop the declines older people experience as the normal process of aging brings to many. What has changed is restrictions on face-to-face visits to physicians, an overburdened healthcare system and a triaging of interventions. Fear of Covid could delay being seen in emergency rooms for health issues that need immediate attention.
  4. Undergoing a crisis: The restrictions limiting contact of informal supports, additional precautions postponing routine medical care and delayed response to medical needs  can mean situations can become more serious before they are attended to.
  5. Moving in or out of facilities: Transitioning to a new residence is often associated with stress and trauma. New considerations regarding safety, social restrictions and availability of beds have challenged both residents and facilities. Balancing the risks and benefits of moving has to be carefully evaluated.
  6. Signs of cognitive decline: Forgetfulness, reduced logic and the inability to organize are always troubling.  Ignoring safety measure during the pandemic can be deadly. Wearing masks, limiting social interactions and taking precautions can be ignored.
  7. Care options and coordination: Obtaining proper care, assuring that safety precautions are taken and balancing the risks of having contact with others who may be at risk for contagion takes preparation, thought and coordination.
  8. Hospital discharge: Limitations due to skilled nursing closures and high risk of contagion often make placement directly to a home or assisted living facility a safer and more realistic option.  A care plan must weigh risks and benefits of all options.
  9. Trouble coordinating care: The added burden the Covid has added to caregiving can be overwhelming. Not only is the older adult at risk, but family caregiver are often burdened with additional family, home schooling, as well as economic and health challenges of their own.
  10. Family Conflict: under normal conditions, almost half of adult siblings will have conflicts involving caring for an aging parent. The added additional challenges and decisions that COVID brings with it have added to the strain on the family system. Unresolved conflicts often complicate an already overwhelmed situation.

You don’t have to do it alone. The multi-disciplinary approach of an Aging Life Care Professional can assist. (www.aginglifecare.org).

About the Author: Bunni Dybnis, MA, LMFT, CMC brings 30+ years of professional experience role as President of Aging Life Matters.  She uses her skills and background as a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist, Certified Care Manager, trained meditator to provide consultation, family conflict resolution and expert witness testimony and support for aging & dependent adults and the families and advisors involved with their needs.

Bunni is considered a national leader and spokesperson for her profession and as well recognition for her involvement in the aging community of Los Angeles. She is a Fellow in the Leadership Academy, past board member and president of the Western Region and chair of numerous committees of the Aging Care Association receiving the highest achievement awards from her peers.