Aging Parents and Coronavirus – What You Need to Think About

healthcare decisionsDo you have elderly parents?
Are they of the age where falls are occurring, or trips to the ER are becoming sort of frequent? Has their mental capacity diminished?
For many of us, these are the realities we face. It brings imperative scenarios we must think through, especially during this challenging time.

My mother has dementia. At 90 years old, her situation is not severe, but severe enough that she needs caring for outside of her home. For many of us, we must watch as our parents age, their bodies become weaker and frail, and sometimes their mind. Trips to the ER, due to falls, BP spikes, or their meds getting off kilter become an all too often occurrence. It’s not that uncommon as we watch our parents age and deal with their physical and mental deterioration. It’s a part of life.

What we are finding is that this reality, is becoming even more difficult during this Covid-19 pandemic.

Let me first start out by acknowledging that my mother has done her estate planning. She’s completed a Durable POA, the appropriate HIPPA forms and HCPOA. These are in place to basically allow our family to make decisions on her behalf if she is unable to. Which leads me to what happened.

So, she’s in an assisted living facility. Basically living independent, but they administer her medications, and take her BP and vitals on a regular basis. They provide her meals and rehab services to help with her physical and mental challenges.

With this current lock down situation, we are no longer able to visit her or to check on her the way we would like.

She developed an issue (for HIPPA reasons I will not mention what it is), that required immediate medical attention, landing her in the ER.

Given the circumstances with Covid-19, we were unable to go into the hospital with her. She was in the ER for hours, given a number of tests, and ended up needing a slight procedure. During these hours, it is likely that she did not understand or couldn’t process much of what was going on. She normally would have counted on us to help her understand the diagnosis and options. (In pre-Corona virus times, a family member would go with her to all medical appointments and ER visits for this reason.) We had not activated the HCPOA, (basically deeming her incapacitated). She still legally needed to make her own health care choices. We could not be there and could not help her with these decisions.

Not that the physicians or nurses would steer her in the wrong direction. They cared for her well.  However, she wasn’t able to process or remember what was all said, and what all went on. She was confused. To know your loved one is in a situation, where they need your guidance, and you cannot be there to give it, is extremely difficult.

We probably should have made the determination before, (deeming her incapacitated). But why have that conversation with your loved one, when we could see no reason to? After all, one of us would always be available to help her through any situation. We were wrong – couldn’t foresee this.

We’ve since triggered the HCPOA. She now has to have surgery. Because of Corona, we may or may not be able to go in and give her hugs pre-op or be there waiting for her when she gets out, but at least we have the required paperwork completed. Now, any information and decisions must be presented to us (as her legal HCPOA’s). We can now make those decisions on her behalf. She now, can rest knowing that her family is taking care of her.

So in this unprecedented time, I urge everyone to consider their circumstances. Consider the circumstances of your loved ones. Get your planning done. Get your Advance Directive completed. Don’t wait until a crisis and find out you have no legal rights to help your loved one.

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