Category Archives: Senior Care Professionals

Post COVID Long Term Care Reform

The COVID-19 pandemic must inspire significant changes in how long term care is treated and resourced.

The  COVID-19 pandemic has placed long term care in the spotlight.  Immense challenges have existed for decades, but salt is now in the wound.

Some lawyers see this pandemic as an opportunity to teach the long term care industry a lesson.  In addition, various media outlets see this as a chance to catch the big story of the devastated family member of one who lived in a nursing home.

Others see the realities of this pandemic as an opportunity to bring about reform.  Larry Carlson,  President and Chief Executive for United Methodist Communities writes about the need for more emotional and financial support for the senior housing and healthcare system https://ocnjdaily.com/letter-to-the-editor-senior-living-centers-cant-do-it-alone/.

Katie Smith Sloan is the President, and CEO of LeadingAge- the national voice for aging services providers.  She discusses the “slow-motion catastrophe” that nursing homes were last on the list for federal COVID support. An Open Letter from Katie Smith, president of LeadingAge

The Front Line

Let’s begin by acknowledging Mr. Carlson’s observation about the societal negative narrative about the people who work in long term care.  Facts:

  • 4.5 million direct care workers support older adults and people with disabilities across the U.S
  • Turnover is 40 – 60% because the work is difficult and workers are under-appreciated and under-paid
  • 42% of direct care workers rely on some form of public assistance to make ends meet

Despite the discouraging realities of this work, millions show up every shift, on weekends and holidays, and even during a pandemic.  In addition, they put themselves at risk to do the work that nobody else can or wants to do.

Direct care workers are concerned about the well-being of those in their care.   Feedback from communities trained in Compassionate Touch reveals that despite the stress and time constraints, staff still find time to calm and reassure their residents with Compassionate Touch.  Compassionate Touch®

These workers and the residents they care for deserve better- much better.   They don’t deserve disrespect or to be described as criminals.  Furthermore, they deserve respect, esteem, and wages that reflect the societal value of growing old with dignity and quality care.

I hope that a higher level of respect and helpful attention for aging services will be an outgrowth of this pandemic.

Julie has worked in Aging Services for over 30 years and has been a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator since 1990. She is a Certified Master Trainer with the AGE-u-cate Training Institute. Through her company Enlighten Eldercare,  Julie provides training and educational programs on elder caregiving for family and professional caregivers.  In addition, she is an instructor and the Interim Director of Gerontology at Northern Illinois University and lives in the Chicago Northwest Suburb of Mount Prospect, IL.

Maintaining Bonds During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges. The economy is fluctuating, with a significant number of people becoming unemployed or being furloughed. The stress of not being able to spend face-to-face time with loved ones is difficult to manage. The quarantine challenges all of us to make changes and cope with being separated from family members, especially those living in long-term care communities. Given the isolation and loneliness that residents are likely to experience, it is more important than ever to maintain bonds and closeness however possible.

During times like these, how do you maintain bonds and closeness with family members living under the COVID-19 restrictions? Care communities are finding different ways to help family members stay in touch while maintaining safety and infection controls. This community created a special way for residents to connect with family members. Another communitiy found a way to help brighten a resident’s day.

Sending cards or notes is another good way to keep in touch. Also, sending a note of thanks to the community can also help encourage care partners. Providing a care package would also show support. Care partners are coping with the stress of supporting isolated residents while maintaining infection control procedures.

It is also crucial for all care partners, those in the long-term care community and family members, to also take care of themselves. As COVID-19 has had a significant impact on our economy and interaction with others, it is more important than ever to engage in self-care. The Family Caregiver Alliance has a great list of resources and articles. As every caregiver knows, you cannot take care of others if you are not taking care of yourself. Self-care will enable a caregiver to be more fully present and able to support and care for loved ones in the long-term care community, especially during the COVID-19 quarantine.

Kathy Dreyer, Ph.D., is the Director of Strategic Projects at AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, which develops and delivers innovative research-based aging and dementia training programs such as Dementia Live® and Compassionate Touch®, for professional and family caregivers; kathy.dreyer@ageucate.com

Creating New Rituals During COVID-19 Restrictions

The COVID-19 pandemic continues with no obvious end in sight. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides information and updates on the Coronavirus disease. States are lifting restrictions, allowing for life to feel more normal, a term that has taken on a new meaning. The current normal involves different rituals and ways to interact with our community and, especially, our loved ones in the long-term care.

Wearing masks in public, washing our hands for at least 20 seconds, and staying at home are now more commonplace. While these measures are a part of our current daily life, other changes are much more inconvenient and harder to adjust to. With long-term care communities under lockdown, families are unable to be fully present with a loved one living in a quarantined community. Mother’s Day this year took on a different form with the ritual of being with mothers, grandmothers, and family having been reshaped out of necessity and precaution.

With restrictions in place, caregivers have come up with creative ways to connect and maintain social bonds with family members living in nursing homes and other long-term care communities. News stories like this one demonstrate how family members are staying in touch and how community care partners are responding. New ways of staying in touch include FaceTime calls and visiting through a family member’s room window. Long-term care communities have created new activities to maintain social interactions between residents.

It is hard missing out on visiting with family, sharing meals and memories, and being unable to communicate through touch. Both family members and care partners are creating new rituals to connect with residents in communities. Some ways to connect with family members in the long-term care setting can include sending a link to a favorite song via email, sending an electronic card, and sharing photo albums by FaceTime or Zoom calls. AARP provides additional ideas additional ideasto help keep family members and residents connected

No matter how you stay connected with your loved one, it is important to remember you are doing all you can do. We are in strange times that call for alternative measures. By maintaining connections you are providing support and care for both family members and their formal care partners. Even new rituals can help maintain lifelong bonds during these unprecedented times.

Kathy Dreyer, Ph.D., is the Director of Strategic Projects at AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, which develops and delivers innovative research-based aging and dementia training programs such as Dementia Live® and Compassionate Touch®, for professional and family caregivers; kathy.dreyer@ageucate.com

Quarantine in Long-Term Care: Prevention at What Cost?

In response to the emergence of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control issued a preparedness checklist and guidance on how long-term care providers should respond. The guidance includes restricting all visitors except for end of life and/or other compassionate care situations. There are also recommendations to restrict volunteers and non-essential personnel (e.g., stylists, chaplains, etc.) from entering a long-term care community. Other suggestions include canceling all group activities and communal dining.

While the emphasis on prevention and control of COVID-19 is necessary and essential, especially for a population who are more vulnerable and susceptible, there are other crucial considerations. How do these restrictions and changes affect residents in long-term care, especially those with dementia? What is the impact on direct care workers? How do we provide care and support for both groups?

Without meaningful activities, a person with dementia might exhibit more behavioral expressions such as wandering. They may have a hard time understanding the infection control measures. As a result, these residents may withdraw further, feel anxious, bored, or become agitated. For employees in a long-term care community, it means more time is needed to support their residents with dementia.

In addition to addressing the needs of those residents with dementia, long-term care staff face additional challenges. There is already a shortage of certified nursing assistants in long-term care, even with the standard amount of work to be performed. The responsibility of additional infection control measures and preparedness planning to be done increases a direct care worker’s workload. Also, being on the front lines to help both residents and family members understand the new quarantine measures, which prevent them from visiting face-to-face, would be difficult. These additional responsibilities increase the likelihood of long-term care staff feeling burned out, stressed, helpless and fatigued.

While the CDC’s long-term care measures for COVID-19 address the safety and health of residents and staff, additional support is much needed. Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) provides an excellent presentation about providing care for persons with dementia and those who care for them in this video. ADI recommends supporting persons with dementia by finding ways to help them understand what is happening, helping them feel secure, and supporting them in accomplishing infection control (e.g., washing hands). It can involve breaking down tasks into smaller steps. It will take a multidisciplinary approach in the nursing home. For staff, it can involve strategies such as meditation time, aromatherapy, and encouraging time to interact with other staff members (e.g., group talk time). Both the residents in long-term care and the staff must be supported and shown care. It’s important to help these groups live while they survive this fast-changing situation.

Kathy Dreyer, Ph.D., is the Director of Strategic Projects at AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, which develops and delivers innovative research-based aging and dementia training programs such as Dementia Live® and Compassionate Touch®, for professional and family caregivers; kathy.dreyer@ageucate.com