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Coming Out of COVID: The Impact on Caregivers

By David Greenberg

It is with a cautious sigh of relief that we are all taking a new look at life after almost a year and a half of the most challenging times many of us have ever experienced.

Living through a pandemic has been challenging for everyone. If you are a family caregiver, or have senior loved ones, the challenge was even greater.

Now, as our world opens up, caregivers and families with seniors may be dealing with a whole new set of challenges. We are only now really seeing what isolation meant for our senior family members.

Alena Trella, the director of North Florida Regional Medical Center’s Senior Healthcare Centers and Specialty Clinics, says her providers and clinicians are now dealing with a whole new set of problems that did not exist to this degree 18 months ago.

“Many of our patients did not attend to chronic disease management during the pandemic,” she said. Important things were not managed very well, including properly taking medicines and even not getting groceries to eat properly. The result is that ongoing medical issues were not being managed. Add to that the issue of isolation, and we are now looking at depression, anxiety and cognitive decline.

However, in rare instances, she said, being alone has been a positive.

“Sitting at home alone, some patients took the opportunity to discover new hobbies and interests, learn technology and connect with family and friends with more time and in a more meaningful way,” she said.

The pandemic also resulted in significant changes in living situations.

“In some cases, our patients had to move in with their families or to another living situation,” she said. “That created new and changing roles for family caregivers. It certainly impacted family dynamics.”

Now, those family dynamics may be changing again, creating new challenges for older family members, who generally don’t like change, and their caregivers.

“There are resources available,” said Trella. “We have so many resources for seniors and families in our community, including skilled care, assisted-living care, in-home companion services and home medical care.  The real struggle at this point is connecting families to the right resources. And there remains the problem of finding what is open and how they have shifted the way they are offering services.”

As we are also seeing the need for living situations to change, either because of a pandemic-related health decline or people returning to work, resources like the Senior Healthcare Centers, Palm Aging Life Management, Touching Hearts at Home and VITAS Healthcare (all found on these pages) can be helpful in finding the right living situation.

“We are still seeing families dealing with COVID issues,” said Christina Ramos of Touching Hearts at Home. “We’re seeing needs for reminders about taking prescriptions and eating meals, as well as transportation issues to get to appointments. Families that may have concerns about these issues can call our office at any time. We want to be a resource for families. And if we’re not the right resource, we will help find another provider for them.”

Given that families staying together may not be a long-term solution, the experts at all these resources can help find an alternative that works best for your family.

So yes, we may be coming out of the pandemic and return to some form of normal. But that means different things to different people, depending on their family situation. In some cases, these families are now facing challenges almost as difficult as what we’ve just been through. As caregivers, the important thing to remember is that there are resources in our community to help you through it.

 

Also in this issue:

Sam Boone on getting back to normal with legal and medical documents 

VITAS Healthcare Camp BEAR HUG 

Returning to medical screenings

The 2021 Walk to End Alzheimer’s