Senior couple video conference

A shot of a senior couple video conferencing with their granddaughter

Seniors are part of the vulnerable population, especially now during COVID-19. Having more communication and time with them is essential, but as social distancing and quarantine are put into place, the future of senior care and seniors has started to shift.

“Social isolation has always been detrimental to older adults,” says Brian Petranick, president & CEO for Right at Home. “Beyond loneliness, studies have shown it has an impact on their physical health, as well – contributing to high blood pressure, heart disease, cognitive impairment and more.”

Petranick urges loved ones to find safe ways to keep seniors engaged during this critical time.

“Technology such as FaceTime can be an impactful way to visit while keeping your elderly loved ones safe. If your older loved one hasn’t adopted this technology, a simple phone call can do wonders. We suggest scheduling regular calls because the anticipatory joy has just as many benefits as the call itself,” says Petranick.

According to aging expert and senior Art Koff, “elderly parents and certainly many grandparents do not have the technical skills to interact via Skype, FaceTime or similar vehicles.”

“Prior to coronavirus, I suggested that the kids who were local go over and assist the communication with out-of-town relatives and those that were otherwise unable to visit. Currently this is difficult in order to keep them safe,” says Koff.

“I am sure you have seen visits in which children visited and waved from outside windows and were able to touch hands against the window itself. I can’t tell you how much this means to elderly parents and grandparents. Everyone should be encouraged to try to do this if at all possible,” he adds.

Petranick suggests that a professional in-home caregiver can bring peace of mind to the family.

“If you’re wondering if your mom is eating well or taking her medication on time, a caregiver can ease that worry. Caregivers can also help with things like housework, getting groceries and prescriptions, and even hygiene. This time can be especially difficult for those with dementia or another cognitive impairment. A trained caregiver can help calm agitation and find activities to keep your loved one engaged,” says Petranick.

Although things are a lot different now because of COVID-19, Petranick reassures families that Right at Home caregivers are trained on the CDC’s COVID-19 protocols.

Koff reminds those that seniors needing services with caregivers who must still visit them in person have to wear masks and take every precaution.

“In some cases caregivers should be given an extra stipend for the additional time and effort needed to keep the elderly in their care safe,” he says.

Koff says there are differences in certain senior facilities in terms of what they provide and the level of care needed. He says he has visited some senior care places that provide various kinds of activities, and some even help with social interaction, computer assistance and communication.

Petranick says that it is possible that in-home caregiving will become more prominent in post-coronavirus America.

“There are many predictions of a huge boom in the home care industry for exactly those reasons,” says Petranick. “For years, we have been looking for ways to keep people out of the hospital unless they are really sick.”

He says they have been finding ways to reduce readmissions and ER visits in order to keep down costs.

“If nothing else, this pandemic has shifted people’s mindset to see hospitals as places for those who are sick, and to see home as a place for those trying to stay well. Home care is a service to help seniors stay well and improve quality of life,” he says.

Petranick says that many things will play part into what post-coronavirus America looks like.

“In-home caregiving, like many industries, has had to adapt during the pandemic, and we will continue to do so after. I expect we will see the need to adapt and innovate ways to allow more people to age the way and where they want. Our ability to offer person-centered care is a great benefit to many families,” he says.