According to the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC), nearly 12 million Americans who are either chronically ill, disabled, or are physically weak, and require some form of in-home support to carry out their activities of daily living to lead a somewhat normal life. The majority of what makes up this group are those 65 years or above that will more than likely have at least one underlying medical condition. This combination of age and health puts them into the category of high-risk individuals, who are more susceptible to serious illness or death if they contract the Covid-19 virus.
The question that many are now facing is, “If you are one among them or have a vulnerable senior at home, should you start or continue in-home care services during COVID-19 crisis, given the highly contagious nature of this disease?” While social and physical distancing tops the list of the CDC’s COVID-19 advisory, a decision has to be made as to whether or not bringing someone in the home can be done safely and what procedures can be followed to mitigate the potential spread of infection.
In addition to this, some may ask is homecare an essential service or is it something that should be put off? Aside from being extremely essential for many aging seniors, the need and demand for these services has never been greater. As health experts continue to express concerns over increased risk of contracting infection in both medical and non-medical care facilities, people are either choosing not to continue the normal health checkups that are part of their health & maintenance routine, or they can’t get procedures done as most doctors and hospitals will only address critical emergencies. This has dramatically increased the number of people at home entering a state of health decline that could benefit from some supervision or even just a checkup from a registered nurse that can be communicated back to their physician. So while postponing or declining at home care services may appear to be a solution to curb viral transmission, it has certainly created an environment, where the ultimate suffer is the senior or person in need of care.
So, what is the ultimate solution? Professionals offering in home care services like companionship, home health care, and skilled nursing, must take additional safety measures when visiting homes of care seekers. Not only will this help cut down the risk of disease transmission, but will keep the client as safe as possible.
Precautionary Measures to be Taken by Home Caregivers
In accordance with the recent CDC COVID-19 guidelines for care professionals, home care agencies should give special attention to train their workforce, particularly on incorporating prescribed special measures in their day-to-day operations – before, during, and after home visits.
In fact, most licensed home care agencies across the US have enacted such mandates and precautionary measures from the CDC and conduct weekly trainings and updates with their staff as the situation progresses nationally. What is a much higher risk for those seeking care, is choosing to start or continue care with independent caregivers that do not have oversight from a licensed agency, required to follow recommended procedures. An independent caregiver may not even be aware of all the mandated procedures that are in place to try and mitigate the spread of infection.
What Care Seekers Should Ask Their Home Care Agencies
What additional precautions are they taking in the wake of Coronavirus pandemic? Extensive infection control measures are being taken across the whole nation. This certainly means, home visits would include more stringent health screenings, strict measures, and additional personal protective equipment (PPE) than normal days. Patients with existing conditions, especially related to the respiratory system, are now being monitored even more thoroughly. Many licensed agencies are also sharing their action plans on their websites, and/or with their clients via information brochures and phone calls.
What type of care is necessary right now? As per the CDC recommendations, to practice social distancing, non-essential care appointments and services should be put on hold during the COVID-19 outbreak. Most medical care and maintenance would be considered essential. Ask your agency about assisting in communication with your physician and if they can assist with telehealth visits to be the doctor’s “eyes and ears” in the home.
What Care Plan Will You Follow? Any change in routine during the pandemic will affect home care services too. If there is a routine change, develop a plan for your family member with the help of your in home care agency. Any ask within reason that you have, that makes things safer during these times, shouldn’t be outside of the scope of what your home care agency is willing to do.
Have you enacted the recommended procedures by the CDC? Never hesitate in asking a home care agency if they have enacted the procedures recommended by CDC with respect to their day-today operations, home visits by their employees, and even during non-service hours. They should be comfortable in taking time to discuss this with you.
Can you provide me with a copy of your Covid-19 procedures? Home care agencies have already published their CDC-compliant action plans internally. Providing you a copy should not be a problem. If it seems like it is, be cautious and consider contacting a different agency.
Can you take these extra steps that would make us feel more comfortable? Clients always come first for established home care agencies. So, regardless of your unique requests, licensed home care agencies will never hesitate in going the extra mile to help you feel more protected, safe, and comfortable as long as the requests are within reason. Little things that could be as simple as taking off shoes before entering the house, wiping down their keys and phones upon home entry, leaving their personal hand bags or purses in their car, wearing a face mask for the entire visit, or conducting the routine checkup of the patient outdoors on a porch are all things that are simple and becoming more common place.
Starting or continuing home health care has benefits and risks that have to be weighed, but there are many procedures in place that can greatly offset the risk. It’s unfortunate that many requiring care, and their families, are under the stress of deciding to let health decline and “suffer in place” during the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s not necessary and at the least is probably worth an in-depth discussion with a licensed home health agency to see if a level of comfort can be reached.
At Unified Pledge Home Health, our proactive approach towards the coronavirus crisis is what keeping us going during these tough times. Be it about integrating the CDC Guidelines in our day-to-day operations or ensuring employees’ strict adherence to our pandemic-specific instructions, we are doing our best to offer quality home care to our clients while exceeding their expectations and creating a higher level of comfort during these stressful times.
We encourage you to connect with us, as an in-home assessment and care plan estimate are always free at Unified Pledge. We also encourage you to contact us for general inquiries or concerns, even if you don’t need our in home services now. No question is to small and we are here to assist the local community! CLICK HERE!