The threat of COVID-19 has disrupted so much of our culture and has done so very quickly too. It has touched everything from how residents of Manchester and elsewhere go grocery shopping to how we pay our bills. It also has impacted the health care industry in all sorts of ways, everything from basic doctor visits and end of life care.
At Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice we continue to adapt to the changing health conditions and do our best to protect our clients and our staff. This includes following local, state, and federal guidelines and restrictions as well as our own policies and procedures for proper sanitation and contagion control.
We’re aware that many of our clients are in one of the highest risk categories: seniors. Plus, they often have weaker immune systems and existing health conditions that could make them even more vulnerable to contracting the virus. Potentially making things challenging is if they follow the news closely, which can make them feel more anxious about their health and the possible risks from going outside or from anyone coming into their personal space.
But in other areas, some of our home health care clients are actually in a better position to reduce the risk of exposure, unlike people who live in nursing homes, residential care/assisted living facilities who may have to take extra precautions, including not being able to visit with loved ones in person. Many of the early COVID hot spots have been traced to these types of facilities where many people were exposed at once by residents, visitors, or staff.
A client living at home also may be able to be more cautious about who they let in or make sure that any guests – including medical personnel – take appropriate precautions before entering and when they’re inside too. They also can follow up on any visits by cleaning areas that people may have touched.
It’s a lot to think about so quickly, but some people have already been practicing good sanitation habits to prevent or at least reduce the risk of other communicable diseases such as colds or the flu. Now, these skills can come in handy.
What we’re doing
At Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice, we’re keeping up on guidelines, recommendations, and regulations issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the State of Iowa Department of Public Health, and our own policies and procedures. We’ve been providing care to clients in Eastern Iowa since 2004 and we want to continue this vital role especially in this public health emergency.
All of our staff use personal protection devices and equipment when visiting clients, including gloves and masks. We also encourage our clients to take similar precautions, if they’re not doing so already.
Our nurses and other aides have experience in dealing with infection control and sanitation as part of their training and education, so we’re all familiar with many of the rules and regulations. We also appreciate being able to discuss these regulations with our clients who are happy to learn new methods to promote safety or even avoid some common but inaccurate rumors that are going around online.
We’ve also canceled some of our community programs including support groups.
One of the big changes is how you visit your health care provider. Some clinics have changed their procedures, including requiring staff and patients to wear masks, offering hand sanitizer stations in many places, and changing seating arrangements in the waiting room to encourage social distancing. Some may even encourage people to wait in their cars or treatment rooms until their name is called to minimize the number of people in the lobby/waiting room at any given time.
But others are offering even more options such as telehealth services, where you interact with your provider via the internet. You can hear and see each other, so this can provide a good conversation about your health. You can describe your symptoms, maybe show areas of concern, and he or she can decide on a course of treatment. It could mean that they call in a prescription to a pharmacy for you, refer you to a specialist, or invite you to see you in person.
Telehealth appointments can be a good way to check in with your provider but not have to leave your home. But you also need to make sure you have an adequate mobile device or computer.
End of life changes
One of the more unfortunate challenges of this “new normal” is end of life care. Although nurses can and should be with a patient in their final days, in some cases, family members and loved ones are discouraged from being present due to health concerns. If the technology is available, a nurse may be able to set up a tablet, phone, or computer where people can see and talk to each other and say good-bye. It’s better than not being able to be there at all, and also keeps possible exposure risk down, but it can be difficult to talk to someone without being able to touch them or hug them.
Photo by USDAgov