How to support an aging loved one during a pandemic

By Wendy Johnstone
November 1, 2020

Caregiving with compassion in COVID times

Like the rest of the world, our business had to make several shifts in 2020 with likely more to come in the next few months. The words “shift” and “lessons learned” have taken on whole new meanings since the pandemic and inspired this month’s blog on caring for our aging parents or loved ones in the coming year.

Hopefully, the following information will provide insight as to where things are at regarding visitation rules and how to approach future scenarios.

COVID-19 Visitation Guidelines in Long-Term Care and Assisted Living Facilities – “Is this our new normal?”

These days, conversations with family caregivers around the pandemic seem to land with us asking, “Is this the way it is now?” “What happens if our in-person interactions are limited again in the winter months as the second wave hits?” Fair questions – unfortunately, ones to which nobody has answers.

As a family caregiver, such uncertainty can make you feel at the mercy of Provincial Health Office policies, especially if your aging loved one is in hospital, assisted living or long-term care. It can feel no room for negotiation exists. And if a family caregiver does advocate, it can take a great deal of time and energy – personal resources not all caregivers possess.

But we must remember the reason for these rules: public safety.

Visitation regulations for hospitals, assisted living and long-term care homes are dynamic and continually changing in response to COVID-19. These rules are mandated by the Ministry of Health based on recommendations by the Provincial Health Officer.

As an independent advisor to the provincial ministries and public officials, the Provincial Health Office is responsible for monitoring the health of the population. The Provincial Health Officer has authority to make orders when a situation, such as a health pandemic, is declared a provincial state of emergency. The public is required to follow these orders. 

To find visitor guidelines for a specific area or province, you can search using terms such as “visitor guidelines for Regional Health Authorities and COVID-19” or “social visitation and essential visitor guidelines Island Health.”

Click here if you are looking for more information on current COVID-19 notices in effect in BC.

Going forward – things to think and talk about

It is stressful and worrisome to have such a limited window to how well the person you are caring for is doing. Family caregivers who are unable to travel to see their aging parents or who have loved ones located long distance are feeling more disconnected than ever. Even those caring for seniors in their own home have increased underlying stresses and concerns that can weigh heavily.

One way to help ease strain caused by ongoing uncertainty is to communicate.

Research shows an increase in health and well-being of both care recipients and caregiver when difficult decisions about care are made together. Although initial resistance is not unusual, discussing values and preferences results in both the person caring and the care recipient feeling more satisfied and having increased quality of life.

We know we can’t control the future. (What? You mean the Magic 8 ball doesn’t work?) But consider asking yourself, your family and the person receiving care these basic questions to both bring the current situation into focus and formulate a plan moving forward:

Then, take it one step further and write your responses down to help prioritize where to act first. 

What else can we do?

One caregiver recently asked me, “How do I deal with the government-mandated policies versus what I think is our right? I feel family caregivers should be deemed essential visitors.”

I suggested she get involved by speaking out loud and voicing her concerns. Journal about them, write to local government and/or join other family caregivers with like-minded opinions, such as Caregivers4Change, an organization that aims to inspire individuals and communities to support family caregivers. (You can read more about their mission and awareness here.)

The future of how we care for our aging loved ones during the pandemic remains uncertain.

We can hold onto hope that it remains the same or, in a best-case scenario, it improves. In a worst-case scenario where we return to stricter visitation rules, we must build upon what we’ve learned this past year and carry those lessons forward to stay resilient.

As always, if you or someone you know is facing eldercare challenges, please reach out to us at Keystone Eldercare Solutions. There are several free caregivers supports we can refer to and, of course, we are happy to support family caregivers directly.

For more information on this topic, check out the following resources:

Caring for aging parents in the era of COVID-19;

Reimagining Care for Older Adults: Next Steps in COVID-19 Response in Long-Term Care and Retirement Homes;

BETTER TOGETHER: Re-Integration of Family Caregivers as Essential Partners in Care in a Time of COVID-19.

Helpful Videos

Watch for the Signs

Caregiver Consultations: How We Help Frail Elderly Parents

Long Distance Caregiving

“You are amazing! What I tried to do in 2 months, you did in 1 week. You’ve helped us navigate the system, made sense of Mom’s disease, and gave back her independence and control. Thank you for making such a difference in Mom’s life and giving us, her family, complete peace of mind.”

– Mike G., Nanaimo, BC

READ MORE TESTIMONIALS