Joyce Smith, CPA, is a member of the Professional Services Team, as well as the Partner in charge of our Senior Care Financial Services. Our Senior Care Financial Services strive to provide aging clients with a unique blend of financial related services combined with a personal touch. Our goal at Strothman and Company is to provide you with support for all your financial needs and help you, or a loved one, face life’s challenges as they occur. If services outside of the accounting realm are needed, we have a trusted network of professionals on which we can call to get you the guidance you need.
Joyce reached out to a resource in our network of providers to discuss the impact COVID-19 has had specifically on our older adult population. Lindsey Smith Harper, PharmD, MPH, BCACP is a Clinical Pharmacist at Norton Healthcare. Dr. Harper has over four years of experience in managing chronic healthcare conditions specifically in geriatric and older adult patients. Most recently, Dr. Harper is serving as a Transitions of Care Pharmacist providing assistance and medication counseling to patients who are discharging home after being admitted to the hospital. Dr. Harper has provided discussion and information regarding senior care issues for us numerous times in past. Dr. Harper’s thoughts follow.
I am a firm believer that age is “just a number” when it comes to many parts of life; however, coronavirus may be one aspect that we need to think about differently when it comes to older adults and COVID-19. COVID-19, as we have come to know this pandemic, has affected all of us in a number of ways; however, some of the hardest-hit members of our community are those people who fall in the senior age range. All of us may have some level of concern about getting sick or about what this pandemic means to our community, but some of the hardest hit have been our adults who fall in the senior or geriatric age range. Why have senior adults been impacted so significantly by COVID-19? Read on to learn more about how COVID-19 has impacted senior adults in our community.
First and foremost, as we age, our risk for severe disease increases when it comes to coronavirus. In fact, 8 out of 10 COVID-19-related deaths in the United States have occurred in adults 65 years of age and older according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Risk of hospitalization related to COVID-19 also increases with increasing age. Many older adults are aware of these facts and this information is discussed frequently in the media and news reports. One thing that you may not have considered is the amount of emotional distress this concern is placing on older members of our community and the anxiety it has caused. Some older adults may decide not to seek care for other chronic health conditions such as heart disease or diabetes due to a concern for being exposed to COVID-19 in the doctor’s office or at the hospital. This may lead to a significant worsening of existing conditions unrelated to COVID-19. In addition, some older adults may also choose to forgo a trip to the grocery store due to concern for potential exposure and instead may choose to eat unhealthy food options or skip meals. In all people, but especially in older adults, skipping meals or choosing unhealthy options may be detrimental to general health or may cause a worsening of chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart failure.
Another aspect we need to consider is that isolation and social separation may hit senior adults harder than some of the younger members of our community. Social support is important for physical, cognitive, and psychological well-being for older adults. Some senior adults may live with a spouse or family, but many live alone and depend on family or caregivers for both social interaction and assistance with activities related to daily living. For those individuals residing in a long-term care facility, many have been forced to separate from other residents and for many of these residents, visits from friends and family have been suspended. Even for those with strong social networks, isolation is much more likely during this time. As the pandemic progresses, these feelings of separation and isolation may lead to increased rates of depression and hopelessness for older adults. For many of us, the answer to isolation has been to turn to technology to engage in things such as FaceTime, more frequent phone calls, and interaction over social media such as Facebook or Instagram. Although highly dependent on the individual, senior adults may be less likely than younger adults to feel comfortable with technology and may not be as inclined to turning toward technology for social connection. In addition, social interaction over technology may be uncomfortable to those who are not as familiar with this as a means of connection.
The natural question after reading this information is “What should I do?” If you fall in the 65 and older age range, the best thing to do is to be smart about the decisions you are making.
- Consider your own risk. Although you may fall in this age range, everyone’s individual risk is different. Based on your health status and underlying medical conditions, you may be at a higher or lower risk.
- Wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, and do your best to maintain social distancing at all times. This is the advice given to everyone, but it remains important. This is something each individual has control over and washing your hands may prevent you from becoming ill from coronavirus even if you are exposed. Don’t underestimate the importance of these things.
- Consider the risk level of the outing or event. Will people be able to social distance at least 6 feet apart and will people wear masks? If the answer is yes, then the event is lower risk than an event where people cannot socially distance. Will people be traveling from out of town to the event? Traveling across state lines may increase the spread and it may be best to continue to avoid these types of gatherings. In addition, smaller gatherings may present a lower risk than larger gatherings. As groups start to gather, make sure you take appropriate precautions to protect yourself.
- Look for unique opportunities to socialize. Technology may or may not be your thing, but technology is one of the best tools we have during a time of isolation. Look for opportunities to connect with your friends or family using social media or applications such as FaceTime. Even though it may not feel natural, it may be a great substitute for those face-to-face connections.
- Get your influenza and pneumonia vaccinations. Although these vaccinations do not prevent COVID-19, they prevent other respiratory infections that may cause harm. If you are concerned about COVID-19, protect yourself against these other conditions that we know cause respiratory illness and may compromise your body’s response to another disease. If you are not sure if you are a candidate for influenza or pneumonia vaccinations, speak with your primary care provider or a pharmacist at your local pharmacy.
If you are below 65 years of age, here are some things you could consider.
- Lend a (socially-distanced) hand. Do you have a friend, family member, or neighbor who may be concerned about going out in public? Picking up groceries, prescriptions, or home supplies for this individual and dropping it off at the door may be an excellent way to help out.
- Encourage socialization as appropriate whenever possible. Help a friend or family member to set up virtual social events or set up a socially distant event where you will be able to spend time together safely. Instead of a gathering inside the home, plan something outdoors where people will be able to socially distance by keeping 6 feet apart. Consider playing a yard game or setting up a gathering outdoors. Consider the importance of being encouraging and not forceful when recommending something such as using technology or socializing virtually; this may not be right for everyone!
- Help connect an older family member or friend to appropriate resources.
- For someone needing support for meals, seek out resources from Meals on Wheels or Feeding America.
- For someone in emotional distress, reach out to the Disaster Distress Hotline through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- For financial advocacy needs, contact Joyce Smith or Chantelle Engle with Strothman’s Senior Care Financial Services at 502-244-5505.
If you’re looking for additional information, here are two good resources: