How COVID-19 Affected In-Home Care
While many businesses and companies had to shut down during the pandemic, in-home care agencies were an exception to that requirement. In general, people were only allowed to leave their homes if they were needing essential services or had medical requirements. It was disheartening to watch as so many became isolated and felt compelled to stay at home.
For those in home health care, this was not the case. We still had to “show-up” every day and be there to provide the care others needed, as in-home caregivers were deemed essential healthcare workers.
Home care workers were on the front lines for exposure to COVID-19 as they entered numerous homes in the community. The emotional toll on clients and caregivers was relentless as fear and uncertainty swept across the world. Home care workers had to navigate new environments in which the risk factors were unknown. Who knew if visiting family had exposed their loved one unknowingly to this very real threat. Fearful of contracting Covid-19, some clients dropped home care services to avoid having caregivers entering their homes. In addition, some caregivers quit for fear of contracting the virus in uncontrolled settings. For some clients, family visits ended, as loved ones were fearful of spreading the virus to their vulnerable loved ones. This scenario left visiting caregivers struggling to try to meet their client’s heightened emotional needs.
COVID-fatigue is a reality and staff, clients and family members are emotionally and physically drained. Covering shifts and having adequate staff became a scheduling nightmare. If a staff member had a runny nose or cough, or any flu-like symptoms they needed to be pulled from the schedule and tested for the virus. Without a rapid test system in place, the results could take a week to post, and staff were unable to work until they obtained a negative result. Staff testing positive were out of the work force for over two weeks depending on their recovery.
The shortages and price hikes for personal protective equipment or PPE were severe and left agencies scrambling to protect their staff and clients. We quickly had cloth masks sewn for staff and were able to obtain cloth gowns that were washable and reusable. Until then we used rain ponchos. One-use surgical masks were bagged and re-used for weeks. Not wearing a mask was not an option even for those who felt their freedoms were curtailed. We had an ethical obligation to protect those we cared about. Nursing homes and assisted living centers received access to covid testing and federal funds, while in-home care had to fight to be recognized for the same protections.
It was challenging for many people to get medical assistance during this pandemic, especially with a high number of medical experts assisting with the COVID-19 relief efforts. For others, the fear of contracting Covid-19 during a hospital stay or routine physician’s appointment was a barrier. We offered our clients 24-hour care to enable them to remain safely at home with the support they needed to prevent unnecessary hospitalization.
In-home care will continue to grow as seniors try to avoid the isolation and lock-down that occurred in senior care communities, such as skilled nursing facilities, assisted living communities and board and care homes. Furthermore, the pandemic has fueled new care delivery models currently developing, such as Hospital-at-home and SNF-at-home programs. As these new initiatives gain momentum, it will open the door for additional people to receive care at home with Medicare funding it.
While many people have been able to work remotely, in-home care required that the caregiver continue to visit in the home or senior living apartment to give personal hands-on care. This presented its own set of difficulties, as caregivers were trained to keep their mask on, social distance as much as possible, sanitize surfaces and be vigilant about proper hand-washing techniques.
With the pandemic, much of our staff training transitioned to online formats. The challenge for our industry was keeping employee morale high during a time when staff could not gather to train, share experiences, or participate in group activities. There is a certain disconnect that occurs from online platforms when trying to communicate.
We changed our work hours slightly, so the office staff do not come in at the same time as they did in the past. However, the frontline caregivers have not had their schedules changed because people still need help around the clock. The challenge is when someone is sick and loses work hours, or the client’s family may have to step in when no one else is available. The clients and family have been adamant about not having a caregiver with any possible symptoms.
Through it all, our seniors have inspired as they have persevered with courage. They are an example to our younger generation of resilience, as they have already experienced difficult life events. Our staff have shown-up as true heroes as they continued to help others even when exhausted and fearful themselves.
If you are looking for in-home senior health care services in Utah, connect with us at Senior Partners, Inc. We provide affordable senior care in the comfort of your own home. Services include personal care, managing activities of daily living (such as bathing, dressing, eating, hygiene, etc.), companionship and homemaker assistance (light housekeeping, laundry, meal prep, and errands), transportation and senior case management for help in navigating the long-term care options.
Our goal is to support clients who wish to remain safely in their own home and age-in-place. If you want a better understanding of the services that we provide, please click here. If you want to get in touch with us, please click here.