A Different Perspective: Aging Parents and Long Term Care During the Coronavirus Pandemic

elderly hands resting on table with interlocked fingers. Surgical mask also on table.This guest post is by a Stein Assisted Living family member, hoping to provide perspective about their experience during the coronavirus pandemic.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has presented challenges for many families. With the difficulties that long term care facilities have specifically faced, tough decisions have been made. For my own family, the situation meant removing my mother-in-law from her assisted living community. I hope that sharing my experience will offer a sense of perspective to children of aging adults about the difficulties of caring for older parents, and the wonderful care that is provided at Stein Assisted Living.

The decision began with a suggestion from my nephew, a medical doctor. It was early March, prior to the pandemic hitting long term care facilities as hard as it ultimately did. The infection rate was increasing in our area, but there was not yet a state-mandated lock down. After a family discussion, we decided that it was safer to have my 92-year-old mother-in-law at home — away from any chance of community spread. Although this is not a decision that we regret, I found greater appreciation for the care that Stein Assisted Living provides after having gone through this experience.

It began with moving my mother-in-law into my home. We knew that professional help would still be needed, so we hired a home health aide to assist her each night. Even with the extra assistance; the amount of time, energy and effort it takes to take care of even a healthy person in that age group was a lot more difficult than expected. My wife and I were becoming physically exhausted, and had less time for our own well-being and health. My mother-in-law was in turn beginning to suffer cognitively and lose mobility. As her condition declined and it became more difficult for my wife and I to provide care, her grandchildren decided to step in and offer their home to her. The task eventually proved to be too difficult even for them. All in all, there were quite a few alternatives tested. None were perfect.

The times we live in now are quite different from those in which our parents grew up. People are living much longer than they used to and with that, we have older children caring for even older parents. As a 72-year-old man with a 70-year-old wife and an elderly mother in-law, our abilities to care for one another were tested.

My mother-in-law is now back at her assisted community after over three months away. The experience has been eye-opening, creating a new level of gratitude for the care that she is afforded there. Stein Assisted Living has a full recreation team, nursing care, doctors checking on the residents — a whole team. They’re quickly aware of when the residents are deviating from their norm. It’s become even more clear that no matter how much love we have to offer our parents, there comes a point where it does not compare with the care of a trained professional.

While long term care facilities have certainly taken a hit during this pandemic, I think it’s important that people don’t think it’s an easy alternative to take their loved one home and care for them on their own. The decisions that we have to make during this time definitely come with a trade-off, a sacrifice. We make the choices that are the best for our loved one’s health and safety, but it’s important to consider our own personal well-being as well. I am thankful to have the assistance of an organization like Stein Assisted Living during this time.