Cindy Gundy wonders how her “lady” is holding up under isolation: if anyone is helping put her to bed, what she makes of the lack of visitors, if her supply of ice cream is exhausted yet.
Gundy, a home caregiver, hasn’t been able to visit her clients who live in assisted living facilities because of restrictions on visitors aimed at curbing the spread of the new coronavirus. She said she understands that the communities have to protect their residents, but she worries about those who don’t have family nearby to check on them, like the woman with Alzheimer’s disease who she calls “my lady.”
“It’s frustrating to me that she might think I deserted her,” she said.
The state ordered nursing homes and assisted living facilities to follow the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ guidance on visitors, which calls for restricting “non-essential” visitors, including some people working in the health field. The order doesn’t directly say if non-medical caregivers, who help with tasks like bathing, running errands and making meals, should be considered essential.
Corky Kyle, CEO of the Colorado Assisted Living Association, said members seem pretty clear on the visiting guidelines from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. While the limitations can be difficult, it’s important to avoid outbreaks in a vulnerable population, he said.
“They know what they need to do,” he said.
Home care agencies around Denver report that many facilities have restricted caregiver visits, but that so far they’ve been able to avoid dramatic cuts to employees’ hours.
Amy Lane, co-owner of Home Care Assistance of Centennial, said her company has a “decent number” of clients in assisted living or memory care facilities, most of whom started receiving services at home and kept their caregivers on after they transitioned.
Scheduling is more complicated since COVID-19 began to spread, Lane said. Some clients can’t receive help because they live in facilities, or don’t need as much because a spouse is working from home and available to do more. Some are cutting back on help because they’re nervous about having people come into their homes, while others like having one or two people who they know are taking precautions stop by to ease their isolation, she said.
“It’s always like putting together a giant puzzle” to match clients and caregivers, she said.
Karen Acosta, a field specialist with Denver-based All the Comfort of Home, said clients who only need a bit of light housekeeping have been canceling appointments, but enough clients have extensive needs that it hasn’t caused caregivers to lose many hours of work.
Jon Webb, chief operations officer for Extended Family Home Care Denver, said his company has been able to reassign all but a few caregivers who do limited services like errands. A few others have decided to stay home because they have medical conditions that would put them at a higher risk from COVID-19, he said.
The company actually had asked clients with relatively minor needs, like someone to run errands for them for an hour or two a week, to make other arrangements, Webb said. The concern was that both the clients and the caregivers would be putting themselves at risk of infection through interactions that weren’t strictly necessary, he said.
“We are not sending caregivers to clients that don’t absolutely need care,” he said.
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