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How Busy Boomers Can Advocate for Parents Living in a Nursing Home During COVID-19

two elder parents looking at medicaid and nursing home plans
Among the growing challenges facing America’s middle-aged population is balancing financial and emotional support for older parents and growing children.

Some of America’s middle-aged population is characterized as the ”sandwich generation:” adults that have a parent at least 65 years of age or older AND a child either under or over 18 that they are supporting. Caring for different generations that have a variety of needs and are at opposite ends of the age spectrum can be daunting. Although middle-aged adults expend many resources towards growing children, recent research shows that many are placing greater value on caring for older parents. In previous years, 75% of middle-aged adults had mentioned financially supporting older parents, whereas only 52% reported the same for a grown child.

In the age of COVID-19, caring for older parents has become even more critical for the sandwich generation. Many have wondered how they can continue to be a source of support for parents in nursing homes during COVID-19, while restricted visitation policies and medical uncertainties limit their ability to stay close.

Here are a few simple, yet important things that a person can do to support their older parents.

1. Follow best practices for pandemic preparedness.  

With over 6 million cases and over 195,000 COVID-19 related deaths, the United States is an epicenter for the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the risks of developing severe long-term illnesses from COVID-19 are greater among older Americans. In fact, Americans over 65 years of age represent 8 out of every 10 COVID-19 deaths.

With older Americans being at an increased risk of illness, many wonder how to support older parents during this time. One of the best things anyone can do is to maintain social distancing at events and reduce exposure to the public. With restaurants, bars, and venues opening up, the principle of social distancing seems forgotten. However, social distancing is a critical component for protection against spread of COVID-19. People should encourage older parents to practice social distancing in public and avoid any and all gatherings where social distancing may be difficult. Accompanying older parents at these events to ensure they are social distancing may be an option.

2. Encourage digital communication if possible.

If your loved one is currently in a nursing home, visitation hours may be restricted if not temporarily canceled. When this happens, the most critical thing that is affected is communication. Prior to COVID-19, older parents in nursing homes were probably used to routine visits from their loved ones. Although COVID-19 may prevent one from physically visiting their parents at nursing homes, alternative means of communication should be established. Whether it is through a tablet, phone, or a Zoom call, some channel of communication should be established to ensure that older parents are able to maintain some level of a social lifestyle. Although some older parents may have difficulty knowing how to use technology, the staff at nursing homes may be able to help them.

3. Be diligent about pandemic preparedness at your loved one’s nursing home. 

Nursing homes should constantly be checked to make sure a core plan for keeping patients safe from contracting COVID-19 exists, and that a treatment and monitoring process set forth for patients that experience symptoms and have the virus.

4. Keep tabs on legislation meant to protect your loved one.

Adults taking care of older parents should have an understanding of the rules regulating nursing homes. Some of these requirements include: the right to retain personal property in a patient’s living quarters unless medically inappropriate, the right to manage one’s own financial affairs, and the right to choose your own personal physician. In the event that families believe a nursing home is violating any mandatory rules, legal counsel should be sought to explore options available to families.

5. Make sure your loved one’s estate planning is in order. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in tragic loss of life around the world. While nobody really likes to think about it, it is everyone’s responsibility to be prepared for the worst even while hoping for the best. Adults of older parents should work with local counsel to assure parents have estate planning documents in place which properly allocate of their parents’ assets.


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