Christine Lee is Managing Director of one of the most trusted in-home care agencies in San Diego, Casa Companion Homecare Solutions. Christine’s agency offers San Diego home care, live-in care, respite care and companion caregiving. In this week’s blog, she responds to important questions about how her agency’s caregivers are keeping clients (and themselves) safe and healthy during the COVID-19 crisis in San Diego.
Are workers providing in home care in San Diego considered essential?
Yes, in home care workers are doing essential healthcare work as defined by federal, state and local guidelines. After Gov. Newsom issued stay at home orders for the state of California, Casa Companion Homecare provided a letter to all employees, confirming the essential nature of their work. We’ve instructed employees to keep it with them at all times when traveling to and from work assignments, and to keep it handy on their phones ready to show authorities. Even prior to the stay at home order, CA was one of the earlier states to recommend that seniors and vulnerable populations stay home. As a result, adequate home care is more essential than ever.
How are Casa Companion in-home caregivers complying with social distancing?
Caregivers are incredibly vigilant about social distancing because they understand the risk to their clients. Our home care aides work with seniors who have underlying medical conditions and are therefore the most vulnerable. Recently, one of our employees had a family member that needed to go to ER for an injury, and she wouldn’t take him, or even drop him off. She didn’t want to be exposed to anything in the emergency room due to the nature of her work with the elderly in home care. Everyone is being very cautious to not expose themselves or others.
How is my parent’s in-home caregiver keeping my parent safe from COVID-19?
Home care aides are trained to follow safety precautions around infection control in their daily work. The coronavirus pandemic has only amplified their alertness. They’ve been trained on infection control protocols, effective cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and hands, proper hand-washing techniques, symptoms, risk factors, safety protocols, reporting requirements, etc. Caregivers know to stay home when sick in ordinary times, but we are being incredibly vigilant in the current situation. Even with the slightest of symptoms, they are being reported and we are asking caregivers to not work. We’ve rolled out a pre-shift questionnaire to the ‘clocking in’ process through our home care software that helps our agency manage any hint of COVID-19 symptoms for our caregivers. They are required to answer four questions about possible symptoms, exposure and risk before each shift, and we respond immediately to any negative answers. We absolutely support our employees in staying home if they feel sick at all.
Is in-home care safer than a nursing home?
Our clients tend to be at a higher risk of complications, similar to individuals that reside in nursing homes. Fortunately, our clients who receive in home care are in low-risk environments. That is a blessing for both our clients and our employees in terms of potential exposure to COVID-19. In nursing homes there are multiple people living in close quarters, and caregivers move from room to room to assist various residents. I’m certain that these facilities have adjusted their practices to circumvent COVID-19, but home care solutions are simply lower risk by their nature. Our clients are receiving one-on-one care. Most seniors live alone, and some have very few to no visitors in the home aside from the caregiver. For these reasons, yes, I believe that in-home care is safer than a nursing home.
Does my parent’s in-home caregiver need to wear a mask?
As we all know from watching the news, COVID-19 recommendations are highly fluid. Just last week the new recommendation from the CDC, the state of California and San Diego County is for all of us to wear masks when we leave home. Masks are in short supply all over the US, so Casa Companion Homecare will be providing all caregivers with cloth masks to be delivered by the end of this week. I have mobilized some crafty moms who are eager to help prevent COVID-19 in our communities and they are sewing masks for us as we speak! We don’t require clients to wear masks while in their home, but we encourage them to do so if it makes them more comfortable. If a client should become ill, then we would urge and encourage them to wear a mask to protect their caregivers, their family and their community.
Do caregivers in San Diego need to wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)?
PPE is typically available in the home if the client’s situation requires it, provided by clients for his or her care team or caregiver to use during personal care duties. Recently, as we all have heard on the news, obtaining PPE has been a struggle. We have personally delivered PPE to clients in need and will continue to do so. We’re trying our best to procure what we can to offset the shortages so our caregivers to do their job safely, and we’re currently working on a personal PPE kit for each employee.
How can I support my parent’s in-home caregiver right now?
The biggest help would be to provide caregivers and the home with everything that is needed to keep their loved ones safe. Continue to provide personal care equipment like gloves, and cleaning supplies and disinfectant for the home. Get supplies, groceries, and prescriptions delivered so that caregivers and others do not have to go out for these items. This type of preparation would help limit exposure and keep social distancing from the public for caregivers.
How can I support my loved one in home care right now?
Sons, daughters, and other family members aren’t able to visit their senior loved ones right now, or are drastically limiting visits. One daughter told me that she dropped off prescriptions for her dad and just said hello from the door. She said it was “very, very sad, but he knows what could happen.” Finding ways to stay connected with your loved ones would be hugely supportive. Caregivers are doing video calls with their clients and the family members to keep connections alive. In a caregiver support group I founded called Daughterhood San Diego, one of our ‘daughters’ said that she set up an Amazon Echo Show at her dad’s home as a smart display. It allows features like hands-free calling and the ability to make video calls with family and friends.
Family caregivers can support home care companions, caregivers and their loved ones by keeping seniors engaged and entertained within the mental capabilities of their loved ones, especially those with cognitive issues like dementia. One of our Daughterhood San Diego members whose father resides in a senior living community said that her father is mind-numbingly isolated and bored. In his assisted living home, all his meals are delivered to him and all group activities are suspended, because residents are no longer able to mingle in any way. Isolation due to COVID-19 is a concern for seniors living at home as well as clients that live in assisted living communities. A group member mentioned that there are hundreds of senior activity ideas on Pinterest. Other members suggested activities like puzzles and coloring books for adults.
What’s next for seniors and caregivers in San Diego home care?
We are in a state of emergency. It’s important to act accordingly and have a disaster emergency plan and supplies in place for the house and loved ones. That includes having a contingency plan for care. We are still in the early stages of coronavirus; we unfortunately still have not hit the apex in the U.S. for COVID cases. Governor Newsom in mid-March said that 56% of Californians could be infected with COVID-19 within 8 weeks. Granted that is without any mitigating efforts, and the state has put forth significant efforts. Undoubtedly, the number of cases will rise and it will include essential personnel as well as family caregivers. Staffing levels for essential workers in healthcare will likely be affected so it would be prudent to plan for an alternate arrangement for the provision of care. Really, the best way to support senior parents and loved ones right now is to keep them, their caregivers, and yourself healthy and safe. Plan, be prepared, keep their home well stocked with supplies and necessities, and to find creative ways to keep them connected and engaged.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us. We want to assure you that we are following all the necessary protocols to protect our clients and your loved one. We will continue to update you as more information becomes available.