Has COVID Impacted Home Care for Seniors?
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on our society. Everyone has been touched by this virus whether they have contracted it themselves, lost a friend or loved one, or had their daily lives turned upside down. No one has escaped its impact. The same is true for home care. Both home care staff and clients have wrestled with the challenges of the COVID pandemic. This article will discuss the question, “Has COVID impacted home care for seniors?”
Caregiver Supply and Demand
One of the biggest ways COVID has impacted home care f0r seniors is by contributing to a further scarcity of caregivers. The labor pool for good caregivers and clinicians was already very challenging. However, the COVID pandemic has made it even more difficult to find staff. With COVID infection rates rising in early 2020, many caregivers and clinicians were anxious about leaving home to work with clients. Many decided to remain home with their families, rather than put themselves at risk.
In addition, because so many home care employees have school-aged children who are now home with “distance learning”, many home care employees face an impossible choice. They must choose between staying home with young children or helping their senior clients and earning a living. This situation further reduces the pool of available caregivers to serve home care’s clients.
Of course, the real impact on home care workers has been the virus itself. Despite significant awareness given to social distancing and disinfecting, some home care staff throughout the country has contracted COVID-19. Others have been exposed or potentially exposed to the virus and have been forced to quarantine at home, pulling them from their clients. This effect has been compounded by testing that has not always been available, affordable, or timely which has caused delays and further reductions to the home care workforce.
This staff shortage has been matched with a demand for home care that has never been higher. Across the country, seniors have been deciding by the tens of thousands to remain in their homes and avoid institutional settings such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and hospitals. With the news reminding us daily of the high infection and high mortality rates in these facilities, seniors decided that home was a much better setting for them. This higher demand, coupled with the reduced supply of caregivers and skilled clinicians, has caused an imbalance for many home care companies across the country. This imbalance led to a reduction of home care hours available, delays to starting care, and in some cases, missed shifts. This has been frustrating for both home care clients and agencies as both were forced to find new ways to adapt to the COVID pandemic.
Infection Control Advantages of Home Care
One of the advantages to home care, versus an institutional setting, is the ability to control who is allowed into and out of the home. Seniors are rightly nervous about being exposed to COVID 19. However, in facility-based health care, staff is constantly coming and going from the facility and patient rooms. This includes clinicians and caregivers as well as dining staff, activities staff, housekeeping staff, etc. It has been difficult for these facilities to strictly limit access to a senior care facility during the pandemic. In addition, while many states mandated testing for facility staff, tests were often unavailable or results were too slow to limit the spread of COVID.
Home care does not share these challenges. Our staff is often the same person, shift after shift. It is much easier for a home care agency to limit a patient’s exposure to COVID simply due to the one-on-one relationship between a patient and their caregiver. In addition, home care agencies were required to screen (not test) their staff and their patients prior to every visit. If either home care staff or their patients answer these screening questions positively, agencies do further screening, put infection control procedures in place (including full PPE), and ensure families are fully aware of the situation. The ability to stop a potential infection is much easier for home care agencies. By contrast, health care facilities can have dozens of infections before the outbreak is even identified.
Accelerating an Existing Trend
Seniors have been choosing to remain home in increasing numbers over the last several years. With the lower cost of home care and the desire of nearly 90% of seniors to remain at home, home care has experienced steady growth. In addition to cost and preference, medical advancements have helped. Surgeries are less invasive. Web-based health monitoring is helping patients stay home. There is also an increase in primary care house calls. All of these developments have solidified the trend towards home-based care. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, this trend has been accelerated by several years. Many seniors have been fearful of moving to a facility-based setting due to the higher risk of infection. At the same time, seniors, their families, and medical professionals have learned more about the benefits of home-based health care. They have seen that home care agencies can care for many seniors at home that had previously been moving to institutional settings. This trend is here to stay both during the pandemic and beyond. However, there is no doubt that COVID impacted home care in this regard.
Conclusion: How Has COVID Impacted Home Care?
COVID has been a life changing experience for all Americans. For seniors and home care workers, it has been more than a burden, but a serious health risk. Home care workers have repeatedly stepped up and put their lives at risk to continue helping home care clients across the country. They are some of the true heroes in this pandemic.
If you or a loved one is thinking about transitioning between a facility-based healthcare setting and home, HomeCentris can help. Our team is experienced in helping plan the transition and then making sure your family member is safe and stabilized at home. To contact your nearest HomeCentris office, click here, or click the chat button at the bottom right of this screen. We’ll make sure one of our local home care consultants contacts you right away to discuss your situation and offer solutions. Or, you can reach us at 410-486-5330, or click the chat button on the bottom right of this screen.