Juggling Caregiving Risks: Seniors Needs Versus COVID-19

In our household, we often ask: is it safe to do this?

For my family, we’re careful as I work with seniors. In our family, it’s a team effort.  We wear masks, we keep distant from others, and we avoid crowds.  We wash our hands. 

Right now, we’re debating joining a basketball league for our kids, but it’s hard to imagine how the league can maintain social distancing in a gym with kids and parents present.  If the league were outdoors, it would be an easier decision.  

Yet, staying locked up doesn’t work for us either.   Our boys hit the wall with complete social isolation many months ago.  It’s all about weighing the risks of coronavirus and meeting the social, health, and spiritual needs of our family. 

Juggle the Risks

We’re all struggling with the balance.  It’s especially true if you’re caring for a senior loved one.  For family caregivers, we still have responsibilities.  We are returning to the office.  We’re struggling with the isolation from friends. 

For our loved one, we work hard to avoid exposure to the virus.  It’s important.  Yet, despite remaining free from a coronavirus infection, our loved one is feeling the pressures of isolation.  At Skylark we’ve witnessed the decline resulting from the isolation in our seniors, and we hear the stories of steady decline in physical and cognitive health throughout the pandemic. 

Take a moment to Google “health risks of delayed care due to covid”  The CDC has a really long article on this concerning the issue of delayed care. 

As we maintain communication with other health care professionals we hear stories about sicker individuals in hospitals, cancer diagnoses missed, and decreased cognitive abilities in those individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

What about Adult Day? 

We hear the question regularly: can we start or return to adult day?  It doesn’t take much to know that the increased activity and cognitive stimulation will be a great experience.  Yet, what we read online is worrisome. 

Perhaps, you’ve received advice to wait a bit before returning.  It’s easy to recommend isolation as it protects against the virus.  The isolation and decreased engagement are also problematic.

We understand.  Let me share with you how we are mitigating the risks so that our Adult Day Members stay healthy.

Improved Infection Control:

First, we are improving our infection control procedures. We recently installed the Synexis BioDefense System.  We invite you to check out their website.  Synexis utilizes ambient humidity and oxygen naturally present in the environment to produce dry hydrogen peroxide gas.  The gas fights viruses, bacteria, mold, fungi, yeasts, odors, and insects.  Because it is a gas, it fights viruses in the air and on surfaces.  Infection control has always been a priority at Skylark, but this will make it easier to fight possible infections in the Centers.

Synexis has a couple of advantages over its competitors that we were impressed with.  First, this is an automated program.  It is not reliant on staff completing their jobs perfectly every single time.  With this solution, we will fight possible infectious agents continuously and everywhere in the center.   As a gas, we feel there is an increased opportunity to attack viral agents while airborne before the virus can spread.

Universal Masks Usage:

Did you hear the NPR story about flying and masks?  NPR asks if it is safe to fly.  The evidence says yes: if everyone is using a mask.  The evidence is compelling from whatever the source: if everyone is masked, the risk of spread is significantly minimized.  

We continue to social distance throughout the day.  We have tons of room so it is not difficult.  We screen everyone as they come into the center.  But, I’m convinced the most important is universal mask use. 

BrainBloom:

The best evidence we have for cognitive health includes social engagement, exercising, learning new things, and having new experiences. Our BrainBloom programming is designed to do this. 

Our days are filled with greeting new and old friends, exercise, and learning about new things.  At the end of the day, our seniors go home safe, but with a smile and uplifted spirits.

Balance the Risks

Our seniors have experiences that are not easily replicated outside of the center.  This is not an easy decision.  We regularly engage with families who are returning and who are new to Skylark.  We’ve enjoyed seeing old friends, and we’re excited to meet new friends.  

We’ve gotten pretty good at helping families balance the risks amidst the current situation.

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