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COVID-19 Update: Click here for more information on senior safety.

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Older adults often find themselves faced with social isolation. With COVID-19–whether seniors live at home or are in a community—this isolation has been magnified. Long distance caregivers aren’t able to travel, and seniors must follow social distancing guidelines. This is extremely hard on older adults and their loved ones.

Fortunately, there are ways this sense of isolation can be lifted for seniors, even in these times. Home care services can help seniors stay safe by promoting social distancing. Family and friends can find creative ways to interact with loved ones. And Home Care Assistance has developed several programs and initiatives designed to minimize social isolation for seniors.

How home care promotes social distancing

Social distancing is the best way to avoid getting the virus. Caregivers can help make social distancing possible for seniors by going out to perform daily tasks, so seniors don’t have to leave the house themselves. Caregivers can help bring a sense of calm and stability in a senior’s life by:

  • Doing grocery or other shopping
  • Going out to get medications
  • Setting up video chat options for telehealth or family communication
  • Providing one-on-one companionship and stimulating activities

What’s more: HCA’s trained caregivers are armed with the latest knowledge, follow safety protocols, and execute all of the CDC’s recommendations.

How family, the community and online resources can help

There are many creative ways people can keep older adults company.

Friends and family members can coordinate “drive-bys” to celebrate milestones, birthdays, or holidays including Mother’s and Father’s Day. Participants can decorate signs commemorating the occasion, honk and wave as they pass by their loved one’s house, and drop off gifts. An isolated older adult and family member or friend can also take socially-distanced walks together (with masks and a distance of 6 feet between them). More traditional forms of communication, by way of phone or email, may also help stave off a senior’s feelings of isolation.

Seniors can also reach out for connection. Goodnight Zoom and Lunchtime Laughter, activities that are both offered through the Zoom platform, provide free daily activities for seniors to stay engaged and socially connected. Goodnight Zoom pairs an isolated senior with a child for storytime. Lunchtime Laughter is geared towards Alzheimer’s patients, family members, and caregivers. It offers a noon comedy session to help participants cope with social isolation during social distancing.

How HCA can help

At HCA, we’ve been using our proprietary Balanced Care Method to promote the emotional and physical wellbeing of our clients long before the pandemic began. The method supports our clients’ mental and physical health and can help with reducing the side effects of isolation. We’ve also created several other initiatives to help combat the effects of social isolation in response to COVID.

As always, we hire dedicated caregivers who are passionate about caring for seniors and expertly match our clients to caregivers. Currently, we prefer to make these matches on a one-on-one basis to help minimize risks associated with COVID-19.

Virtual Assessments

We have a procedure in place for conducting online (via FaceTime, Zoom, or Google Hangouts) or phone-based virtual assessments to determine the needs, preferences, and wants of new clients.

We also currently provide in-person assessments in situations where it is safe to do so.

Care-in-the home with a team to provide updates

One aspect of our service differentiating us from other home care agencies is that we provide each client with a full Care Team, not just a caregiver.

Our Rapid Response Team constantly updates protocols and communicates best practices to our caregivers through our caregiver app to help keep our clients safe in their homes.

Caregiver/Client Safety Protocols

We have thorough protocols in place to help mitigate the risk of contracting COVID-19. This includes:

  • Knowing the warning signs and symptoms of illness to be aware of, and who to notify if a person in our care develops them.
  • Requiring caregivers to wear masks and gloves with every client and to sneeze into their upper arm, instead of their hand.
  • Enforcing travel reporting requirements: Caregivers, clients, and caregivers are asked to report if they have been to a location on the CDC advisory list within the past two months. We will not place a caregiver with a client for a minimum of 14 days if travel has occurred.
  • Educating all caregivers on proper handwashing techniques and recommending they wash their hands every hour.
  • Implementing infection control protocols, which includes effective cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and hands.
  • Taking safety measures, including conducting mandatory temperature checks for caregivers before every shift; stocking offices with PPE and disinfectant items for caregivers and clients; updating disaster preparedness plans for clients; and maintaining strict guidelines relating to exposure to COVID-19.

Caregivers can help facilitate tech

Technology has become a vital way of connecting during this time of social distancing. But platforms like Facetime and Zoom may present some technological challenges for the older adult.

Our caregivers can help orient seniors to technology, patiently leading them through the steps they need to take to get connected virtually.

HCA Life Enrichment Guide

Our Life Enrichment Guide is a public resource designed to promote engagement and stimulation during social isolation. It includes:

  • A list of virtual activities seniors can take part in (like watching the animals at the San Diego Zoo)
  • Suggestions for physical activities
  • Exercises to promote cognitive engagement
  • Online self-care resources for caregivers
  • Homeschooling resources for the lifelong learners among us

Virtual Mind Fit Series for clients, senior living residents and the greater public

To help keep seniors’ brains sharp, we’ve brought back our highly acclaimed MindFit Series—and made it virtual.

Seniors can partake in bi-weekly activities designed to boost brain power, like Picture Word Search, Quiz 100, Title Challenge, and Name that Tune.

Conclusion

In these times where long distance caregiving is a necessity, HCA can help seniors maintain their social distance and tackle the sense of isolation that accompanies it. We can do so in a number of ways: by performing daily tasks outside the household for older adults; facilitating opportunities for seniors to communicate virtually; and creating resources that promote not only social engagement, but stimulation for the mind and body as well. These efforts help to combat social isolation for seniors, in turn providing peace of mind for families when they have no choice but to keep their distance.


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About the Author(s)

As a Director of Business Development for Home Care Assistance, Francesca Vogel helps seniors and their families navigate their care needs with compassion, experience, and expertise. Francesca brings 26 years of healthcare industry experience to Home Care Assistance including 12 years as an Eldercare Consultant for AdvoLife, now LivHOME. Francesca also worked as a customer relations manager and regional trainer for Heartland Home Healthcare, where she managed training for employees from six locations. Prior to that role, she worked in sales and marketing for several skilled home care agencies and hospitals. She even served as a cardiovascular technician which gives her direct patient care experience.

Francesca is a member of the East Bay Case Management Association for which she served as President from 2009-2011. She is a member of the John Muir Health Foundation Philanthropic Advisors Council, a John Muir Health Foundation Women’s Philanthropic Circle member, and was on the Hospice of the East Bay 2015-2017 Gala Committee. She has served as President board of directors for Mobility Matters in Contra Costa County since 2017 and is a board member with the Advisory Board for the American Cancer Society.

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