COVID-19 has changed so much about life. It affects how you work, if you travel, and what you want for the future. Although things are getting better, the reality of the pandemic may still be on your mind. That includes your worries about influenza and the toll the flu can take on elders.
That is especially true if you are one of the many Canadian families reviewing senior care options. In the past, many elder loved ones chose assisted living or long-term care (LTC) facilities for their senior years. After all, the younger generations were working. Quality home care was expensive, or there were few resources.
The COVID-19 pandemic and information about contagious illnesses are changing families’ decisions about senior care. One reason is due to the high number of elder Canadian deaths due to COVID-19 outbreaks in LTC facilities. At least 10% of COVID-19 cases were among health care workers, causing more concern.
You are one of many families worried about your elder loved one's safety and quality of life.
How Do Communicable Illnesses Like COVID-19 Affect a Senior's Health?
You know that people 65 and older are at greater risk for serious illness from a virus than the average person. This weighs on your mind as you plan for your loved one’s care.
The Risk of Being Indoors
Being inside with other people increases the risk for getting an infection like COVID-19. That can happen at the grocery store or in settings like assisted living or long term care. One way to protect an older person from catching an infection is to limit their exposure to too many other people.
The older a person is, the greater the chance is that they already have one or more diseases like diabetes and heart trouble. Even when an existing illness is carefully cared for, there’s greater risk your loved one can becoming seriously ill if they catch a virus.
Exposure to Communicable Illness
Even the healthiest seniors are at increased risk of becoming ill if they’re exposed to a contagious illness. This is why people over 65 are urged to get the influenza, pneumonia, and shingles vaccines. After all, when they’re around other people, there’s more chance of catching something.
Control with Protective Procedures
You value your loved one’s safety and good health. That includes their safety, that they eat well, and that their health care is well managed. You need to feel secure that where your loved one lives is a safe, healthy place, whether that’s at home or in a facility. When safety concerns of infections increase, making plans for elder home care becomes more urgent.
When your loved one is cared for at home, you can feel secure that health protection procedures are correctly followed. An example is being able to review tracking forms and daily logs.
How Can Senior Care Options Promote Senior Health?
Your parent or other senior family member may wish to live at home. Because of the concerns brought on by COVID-19, your family is learning about senior care living options. You’re most interested in those that promote well-being, including the reduced chance of your elder’s exposure to communicable illnesses.
At the same time, you wonder:
- If you’ll be able to find the care they need nearby
- How much each type of care will cost
Ontario Seniors Find a Place to Live web page gives an overview of senior care options. It also has links to programs for more information and help. There are several types of senior care options available. Three are summarized here.
Living at Home
With this option, your loved one lives in their own home or yours. Each has pros and cons. Your task is to review the benefits of each, with a special focus on communicable illnesses. In either of home setting, your senior family member will:
- Be in familiar surroundings
- Receive care from family members and paid caregivers
- Have regular social interaction and time for privacy
- Have the advantage of health protection procedures that you monitor
- Benefit from care tailored for their specific needs and interests
These are privately owned and good for seniors who need extra help and whose family may live at a distance.
- Each person or couple has their own room or apartment with wheelchair access
- There is on-site 24-hour care, sometimes with a licensed health provider there or on-call
- Meals are served in a community dining area or in a resident’s room
- There are various activities and services on-site
- Residents may be transported to medical appointments or on outings
- Costs vary based on a senior’s choices about room and special options
Long-term Care Homes
Long-term care homes are for seniors who have personal care needs such as help with dressing and eating.
- Seniors living here need types of care provided by nurses and therapists.
- They benefit from 24-hour care.
- All services are provided, including taking seniors to medical appointments.
- Some of these homes are privately owned and others are non-profit.
- The government pays for a senior’s nursing and personal care.
- The senior or their family pays for room and board with funding available for people who have low incomes.
What Are The Benefits of Home Care Over LTC?
Families like yours often compare home care with long-term care. Home care’s benefits for your senior family member include:
- Being in a setting they know well thus reducing confusion while adding safety.
- A place that’s inviting and comfortable for visiting with family and friends
- Being able to speak their home language, adding to their comfort.
- The ability to take part in favourite activities and eat when they want.
- Keeping as high a level of independence as possible.
- Consistent caregivers, including those who are family members and friends.
Are There Government Sources of Support for Home Care?
There are benefits for caregivers. Eligibility depends on your family’s situation and your senior’s care needs. Some include:
- Compassionate care benefits.
- Employment insurance for people caring for an adult family member.
- Housing options for seniors include government programs and financial benefits that vary by province.
- Access your province on the link.
- One example is that the British Columbia link gives information about home improvement assistance programs.
- As you search government web sites look for those that direct you to governmental social service programs. They can help you apply for programs for which your elder may be eligible.
Can Prevention of Communicable Illnesses Be Managed in Home Care?
One reason for caring for your senior loved one at home is to assure that they are protected from catching viruses like COVID-19 and Influenza.
- Your family will use supplies and take steps to reduce the chance of spreading illnesses within your household.
- Most of the supplies and equipment used to limit COVID-19 transmission are needed in home care anyway. These include:
- Gloves, thermometers, masks, and waste containers and bags.
- Having the equipment easily within reach in the home.
- Having written procedures for family, friends, and caregivers to follow.
- You’re able to plan ahead to assure you have plenty of supplies on hand.
- Using the Carenet+ app for home care booking, as it:
- Helps with finding caregivers in your area.
- Connects you with qualified caregivers in your area.