With Hope for a Better 2021 Caregiver Challenges Remain

By David Greenberg

As many of us know, serving as a family caregiver is never easy. And for those who have had that responsibility for the last year, it is clearly tougher than it ever has been.

Now, while there is hope for a better 2021, caregivers need to remain vigilant and careful in the coming weeks and months.

A slow rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine has begun. Many of our seniors in nursing homes and ALFs have received the first of two necessary doses of a vaccine, and seniors living independently are starting to be vaccinated as well.

But the reality is that, in the short term, that changes very little about how we deal with our senior loved ones.

In fact, many families with seniors living in nursing homes or ALFs have seen, in the last few weeks, increased restrictions on visiting and contact – a result of the recent upsurge in coronavirus cases in Florida.

So, as a caregiver, what do you do? Unfortunately, the answer is the same as it has been for the last year. Continue to take safeguards when it comes to your daily, public interactions to try to avoid getting infected yourself, and continue to be extremely cautious about contact with your senior loved one.

In the last issue of the Caregiver Chronicle, Christina Ramos, of Touching Hearts at Home, offered ideas about how to celebrate the holidays with your senior loved ones. The suggestions she made two months ago still make sense – use the outdoors and embrace technology. Window or outdoor visits with appropriate social distancing should remain the norm, Additionally, Facetime or other digital formats are healthy alternatives to up close and face to face. If your loved one is in a facility, the staff there can help with technology.

One of the biggest issues facing caregivers is guilt. That feeling was certainly heightened in 2020, according to Tamara Evonne, a case manager at the Senior Healthcare Center at Springhill.

“As many people went back to work in the second half of last year, they had to make decisions about how to best care for older parents,” she said. “Caregiver guilt has always existed for adult children, but it became even more acute as they made decisions about what might be best for their parents. The struggle of deciding whether to leave them at home alone or consider a placement was overwhelming for many. And if you are trying to support those caregivers, the best you can do is support and recognize their sense of obligation and feelings and affirm for them that the situation is sad.”

And we should not forget how difficult this all is for the senior member of a family. They always feel their own guilt about being a burden on their children. The pandemic has only exacerbated that, said Vera Gosse, the case manager at the Senior Healthcare Center at Crown Pointe.

“Not only are they dealing with the fear of contracting the illness, they are also facing severe depression and isolation,” she said. “Normally, as they age, people lose interest in activities they always liked. The pandemic has intensified that and taken away a lot. Whether they live at home or in a facility, there’s now a huge void for them. Under normal circumstances, older people are generally not likely to embrace therapy for depression and anxiety. When you have to do it through Zoom, it’s even harder for them. Caregivers have to be creative to find ways to make loved ones feel connected.”

And that may be the most important message for caregivers as we continue to battle this pandemic. Stay active, stay creative and be careful. There is hope for things to get better in 2021.


Also in this issue:

Sam Boone on having your family ready for the future

Caregiver support from Elder Options

Touching Hearts At Home Senior Spotlight

Alzheimer’s Association Virtual Programs