Tips for Families of Long-Term Care Patients During the Pandemic

By: Carol Applegate and Lisa Dillman, Attorneys, Applegate & Dillman Elder Law

Some senior living facilities are beginning to let family members visit residents outdoors in accordance with state guidelines.  However, others remain closed to visitors. As a result, families are fearful and anxious about the care their relatives are receiving and whether they will be exposed to the virus.

Here are some tips for families that may help ease their fears.

Tip 1: Take Action

Family members may feel helpless and worry about whether their loved ones are in danger. One thing that helps fight that feeling of despair is to take action to control what you can about the situation.

Get your plans in place in case your relative starts showing symptoms of the coronavirus. This involves updating advance directives – including whether your loved one would want CPR, to be placed on a ventilator or to be taken to the hospital. Just taking action by updating these important legal documents may help you feel better.

Talk to the nursing home about what would happen if your loved one were to test positive. Make sure the care plan is one you are comfortable with.

Tip 2: Keep in Touch

Just because you can’t visit daily or weekly in the facility doesn’t mean you have to be completely cut off from your loved one. Initiate regular telephone calls or video visits to provide the long-term care resident with emotional support and show facility staff members that your family is vigilant.

You may need to work with the nursing home to schedule a regular call or video chat time if your loved one has hearing or eyesight impairment, memory issues or poor motor skills. Please know that the more you can work with the facility in advance, the better. Many nursing homes are short-staffed right now and some time frames are better than others for calls. Try to avoid mealtimes and other busy periods.

Is the facility not yet offering outdoor visits? You might also ask the nursing home if they have a room or an office that the resident can come to where the family can see and speak to them through a window by phone. Just getting to see your loved one will be comforting.

While it’s important to keep in touch with your family member, it’s just as important to maintain communication with facility administrators. Call or email them with questions and concerns regularly. Also, these frontline workers are very overworked right now. Consider showing them how much you appreciate their efforts with a card, note or treat.

Tip 3: Don’t go it alone

You aren’t the only family in this situation. Reach out to other families in the facility through email chains or telephone trees.

Are you seeing signs that things may not be going as well as you’d hope? Working with a group can help ensure things change. Contact other families to see if they have similar concerns and then band together. It’s harder to ignore multiple families and brush off their concerns.

If you are a family that uses Life Care Planning, this is the time to reach out to your Elder Care Coordinators. They are there to advocate for your family and communicate with the facility to ensure that all your needs are being met and find solutions to any problems.

If you find your anxiety is overwhelming, you can seek group counseling led by a social worker. Many times if you discuss your fears openly, a mediator can help alleviate or prevent an escalation of those fears. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help!

Tip 4: Contact Indiana’s ombudsman

Every state has a long-term care ombudsman who is responsible for advocating for nursing home residents, addressing complaints and working to solve issues.

Indiana’s ombudsmen are restricted from visiting facilities due to the pandemic, but you can still speak with the ombudsman in your area by phone or email if you have concerns about the care your loved one is receiving. As you can imagine, they are extremely busy right now and it may take two or three business days for them to respond to your questions.

You may feel helpless right now, but keeping the lines of communication open and taking action when you can may help reduce your anxiety. Your family has attorneys, nursing home administrators, a care team and even the state there to help ensure your loved ones are safe and protected during this difficult time. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them for help.

 

Lisa Dillman and Carol Applegate are attorneys at Applegate & Dillman Elder Law. The firm specializes in elder law and Life Care Planning, a holistic approach to deal with legal, financial, medical and emotional issues involved in growing older. The firm has offices in Indianapolis, Carmel and Zionsville. Find out more at www.applegate-dillman.com

 

Concern over trips to the grocery store have many of us turning to online delivery options like Shipt, Amazon Fresh and Instacart. These services provide no-contact delivery, with many providers dropping groceries right to your door. Despite these options, growing demand, long waitlists and added delivery cost mean shipping and curbside pick-up aren’t always possible.

 If more frequent trips to the grocery store are a reality for your family, here are a few tactics to help minimize virus exposure and keep you safe when shopping.

 Minimize Trips When Possible

By planning ahead and making a list of needed food, medicine and household items to last multiple weeks at a time, you can avoid making unnecessary trips to the grocery and pharmacy. Having a list in hand will also help you get in and out quickly, rather than browsing the aisles looking for inspiration.

 Shop Alone

Yes, we are all desperate to get out of the house, but it’s important you don’t take the entire family along to run errands. To minimize patrons in the grocery store, it’s best to shop alone. Not only does it keep the store less crowded, but it will make your trip faster.

 Shop When It’s Less Busy

According to various studies based on foot traffic data, early morning is perceived as the least busy shopping time for grocery stores, with late evening being the next best option. In Indianapolis, stores like Aldi, Costco, Kroger and Meijer have special hours for seniors and at-risk patrons only.

 Aldi: Senior citizens, expectant mothers and those with underlying health concerns can shop from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.

 Costco: People age 60 and older and customers with physical disabilities can shop from 8 to 9 a.m. 

 Kroger: The 7-8 a.m. time period Monday through Thursday is exclusive to customers age 60 and older.

 Meijer:  Seniors and at-risk patrons can shop stores and pharmacies from 7 to 8 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

 Walmart:  Select pickup store locations will reserve 7 to 8 a.m. daily for store pickup to customers 60 and older, first responders, people with disabilities and at-risk shoppers.

 Sanitize Your Cart or Basket

Many stores have disinfectant wipes available at the entrance, but bring your own just in case. It doesn’t hurt to wipe down cart and basket handles, and avoid touching your face until you can wash your hands again.

 Wear a Mask or Face Covering

The CDC recently changed their recommendations and are now suggesting you wear a face covering in public, but still leaving medical masks for healthcare professionals. If you don’t have access to a cloth mask, some suggest using a scarf to cover your face.

 Wash Non-Porous Containers and Produce

While the FDA says there’s no current evidence to support the transmission of the virus from food packaging, it can’t hurt to wash non-porous containers like glass or cans with disinfectant wipes, and run produce under water before putting them away. Once you’ve put food in its proper storage, wash your hands thoroughly and wipe down other surfaces you’ve touched, such as countertops.

 To stay up-to-date on how to help protect yourself and others during the pandemic, check out the CDC recommendations.

Concern over trips to the grocery store have many of us turning to online delivery options like Shipt, Amazon Fresh and Instacart. These services provide no-contact delivery, with many providers dropping groceries right to your door. Despite these options, growing demand, long waitlists and added delivery cost mean shipping and curbside pick-up aren’t always possible.

 If more frequent trips to the grocery store are a reality for your family, here are a few tactics to help minimize virus exposure and keep you safe when shopping.

 Minimize Trips When Possible

By planning ahead and making a list of needed food, medicine and household items to last multiple weeks at a time, you can avoid making unnecessary trips to the grocery and pharmacy. Having a list in hand will also help you get in and out quickly, rather than browsing the aisles looking for inspiration.

 Shop Alone

Yes, we are all desperate to get out of the house, but it’s important you don’t take the entire family along to run errands. To minimize patrons in the grocery store, it’s best to shop alone. Not only does it keep the store less crowded, but it will make your trip faster.

 Shop When It’s Less Busy

According to various studies based on foot traffic data, early morning is perceived as the least busy shopping time for grocery stores, with late evening being the next best option. In Indianapolis, stores like Aldi, Costco, Kroger and Meijer have special hours for seniors and at-risk patrons only.

 Aldi: Senior citizens, expectant mothers and those with underlying health concerns can shop from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.

 Costco: People age 60 and older and customers with physical disabilities can shop from 8 to 9 a.m. 

 Kroger: The 7-8 a.m. time period Monday through Thursday is exclusive to customers age 60 and older.

 Meijer:  Seniors and at-risk patrons can shop stores and pharmacies from 7 to 8 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

 Walmart:  Select pickup store locations will reserve 7 to 8 a.m. daily for store pickup to customers 60 and older, first responders, people with disabilities and at-risk shoppers.

 Sanitize Your Cart or Basket

Many stores have disinfectant wipes available at the entrance, but bring your own just in case. It doesn’t hurt to wipe down cart and basket handles, and avoid touching your face until you can wash your hands again.

 Wear a Mask or Face Covering

The CDC recently changed their recommendations and are now suggesting you wear a face covering in public, but still leaving medical masks for healthcare professionals. If you don’t have access to a cloth mask, some suggest using a scarf to cover your face.

 Wash Non-Porous Containers and Produce

While the FDA says there’s no current evidence to support the transmission of the virus from food packaging, it can’t hurt to wash non-porous containers like glass or cans with disinfectant wipes, and run produce under water before putting them away. Once you’ve put food in its proper storage, wash your hands thoroughly and wipe down other surfaces you’ve touched, such as countertops.

 To stay up-to-date on how to help protect yourself and others during the pandemic, check out the CDC recommendations.