Dear Carol: I’ve been caring for my mom in her own home for years. In the past, she’s been fairly independent so that my daily visits have been enough to sustain her. Unfortunately, over the last six months she’s fallen several times a week due to a combination of health problems.
She qualified for nursing home placement earlier in the year, but I’ve put off the move out of fear of the COVID-19 infections in so many facilities. This home has shown no sign of it yet, though, and frankly, I feel that Mom’s in danger alone in her home. I live in a small two-story townhouse with upstairs bedrooms, so I can’t bring her to live with me. I have a young child so I can’t live with Mom. I feel that Mom’s safety is at risk where she is, but I don’t want to expose her to the virus. What does the future hold? — KB.
Dear KB: You and other caregivers are facing impossible choices, now, and it’s a heartbreaking situation with no clear answers.
You recognize that someone like your mom shouldn’t be alone, but every choice you look at is risky. It’s not enough to say I’m deeply sorry, I know, but as a fellow caregiver of many, I truly am.
According to most health experts, we will be living with the threat of COVID-19 infections for a long time. For that reason, care facilities must learn to safely accommodate people who need their care, and I believe that the good ones will.
For now, though, as with so many things, your mom’s location matters. There are states where the risk of infection outweighs a move, even for someone like your mom. If this is true for you, would there be a chance of finding in-home care for now until the spread of COVID-19 infection is better controlled?
If so, in-home care could at least be a stop-gap measure. Yes, there’s a virus risk here, too, but if the agency has trained their caregivers properly, the risk is likely lower than in a community setting.
You indicate that this care home currently has no known infections, so you do have some leeway. Can the home remain faithful to the preventive steps that they have been taking? Have they developed new tools to reinforce their already tight protocol? You’ll need to discuss these issues with them. Ask for details.
If you feel that the best or only choice for your mom is this particular care facility, she may need to isolate in a more remote room for two weeks after the move. Can she understand this? Her ability to get through these changes without too much trauma could depend on her cognitive as well as the staff.
Many decisions that we make during our caregiving years require balance and trade-offs. I can’t tell you what you should do, but I’d continue to talk with this home about how they would protect your mom because she probably shouldn’t be living alone much longer.
Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran caregiver and an established columnist. She is also a blogger, and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” Bradley Bursack hosts a website supporting caregivers and elders at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached through the contact form on her website.