Dear Carol: My mom, 77, was having ever-increasing problems with thinking and memory before this shutdown because of the virus, and her problem is only getting worse with time. Since she lives 500 miles from me and refuses to move out of her condo and into assisted living, I need some help trying to find a manager or someone who can oversee her care.
I know that she needs help, but how do I even begin with social distancing in play? Her funds aren’t unlimited, and I probably need someone to go into her home, right? — OT.
Dear OT: Caregiving from a distance has always been a challenge, but like everything related to caregiving, it’s now even harder.
Getting the help that is needed for older adults at home could remain spotty for some time, depending on people’s locations and the amount of COVID-19 infection present in that locale, but there is hope. Medicare and Medicaid have loosened some requirements so that more options for in-home care are supposed to be covered. Many caregiving groups are cautiously optimistic that these loosened requirements might remain in place and make in-home care more affordable into the future, as well.
Of course, only time will tell. Unfortunately, because of COVID-19, in some areas, it's still hard to find someone willing to go into an older adult's home even if the service is paid for. This is a problem that should lessen over time.
The need to provide care for older adults in their homes will remain even if there are more necessary shutdowns in our future, so now is the time to innovate. Since some nationwide in-home care agencies are actively advertising to hire, I’m assuming that they are developing methods of delivering care with relative safety. Like most other decisions, people will have to balance risk versus benefit.
Meanwhile, your problem is where do you find a person who can provide the oversight that your mom needs, which would include researching and arranging those caregivers who can safely go into her home and/or assisting with a future move to assisted living.
Geriatric care managers, also known as aging life care professionals, specialize in providing this service. There are various places where you can look for a GCM, including simply by conducting an online search but going through www.aginglifecare.org is recommended when possible.
Most GCMS have in the past done intake sessions in person and that’s still preferable. However, if you can’t find someone to safely conduct that type of preparation, you may be able to arrange an online session through one of the video apps like Zoom. In that way, you could "attend" the appointment with your mom.
Yes, a GCM will cost money, but even a couple of sessions could help you with your planning. You might also want to try one of these resources:
- Your local Area Agency on Aging: www.n4a.org/eldercarelocator
- Resource Finder for information: www.communityresourcefinder.org
Everything is in flux now, OT, but with determination, you can likely make some progress.
Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran caregiver and an established columnist. She is also a blogger, and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” Bradley Bursack hosts a website supporting caregivers and elders at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached through the contact form on her website.