Protecting the Elderly from Coronavirus in Arkansas
Contributed by Caroline Currier
Arkansas Health Officials have just announced that the first presumptive case of coronavirus, COVID-19, has been discovered within the state’s borders. As a result, our state is seeing an increased effort to prevent the spread of the virus to our most vulnerable population, the elderly, by screening nursing home staff and visitors. However, the great number of our state’s elderly population who live independently should not be forgotten. This article reviews some planning that you can put into place now to prepare your elderly loved ones for a potential healthcare crisis and help reduce associated stress on family members.
Every family should designate a specific individual(s) who will check on elderly relatives regularly. Though you might believe your chances of being exposed to the virus are slight, it is strongly recommended that you avoid direct, in-person contact with any elderly loved ones. Communication by phone is always preferable to person to person contact when possible and appropriate. If you do choose to visit your elderly loved one in-person, take caution and follow proper hygiene and sanitation protocol before, during and after any in-person visits.
If your family has a designated check-in system, you should ensure that everyone knows who will responsible for checking in with an elderly loved one each day, and set up a process for notifying other family members of an elderly loved one’s condition – this may including sending an email, text messaging, or phone calls. The method is not as important as agreeing to a process and sticking to it so all family members stay informed.
Family members should also obtain an accurate list of medical prescriptions and dosages that a loved one takes so you can ensure your loved one is receiving all of their necessary medications should they fall ill and need assistance. Further, it is important to ensure that all of your loved one’s medications have been replenished frequently during this time, and that they have ample nutrient-rich foods, water and other life necessities on-hand at home. This will allow them to avoid public areas where they might be exposed to the virus and ensure that they have adequate life supplies in the event that businesses are short-supplied, short-staffed or closed for certain periods of time during the healthcare crisis. If your elderly loved one continues to visit public spaces, it is important that you review proper sanitation and hygiene practices with them.
Anyone that might experience incapacity due to the coronavirus should be sure to designate someone that they trust to make medical decisions for them in the event they are unable to. It is also important to make sure someone knows how to get an elderly individual’s bills paid if they fall ill and are unable to do so. These powers can be provided to an agent under a medical power of attorney and a financial power of attorney. This should not be a form that is downloaded from the internet but rather one that is drafted thoughtfully and specifically by an attorney to meet your family’s specific needs.
With regard to prevention and treatment of coronavirus, do not hesitate to reach out to your trusted medical team to understand what you and your loved ones can do to protect one another from infection. In the event that you or your loved one are personally experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, you should contact your medical team to understand the safest and most efficient way to obtain medical advice or treatment.
Ultimately, planning for an unexpected health care or financial crisis can help relieve a great deal of stress for you and your family. The Elder Law Team at Miller, Butler, Schneider, Pawlik & Rozzell, PLLC, would welcome the opportunity to help you come up with a plan that works for you and your loved ones.