Pet Owners Asked to Develop a Pet Care Plan
The SLO County Department of Health has asked pet owners to have care arranged for their pets for two weeks in case the owner becomes ill. The plan should include food, medication and toys to keep the pet comfortable while the owner is unavailable. Details at www.slocounty.ca.gov/Departments/Health-Agency/Public-Health/Department-News/COVID-19-Updates/Pet-Owners-Asked-to-Prepare-Care-Plans.aspx

How to Support Someone in the Hospital or a Long Term Care Facility When You Can’t Visit.
The CDC’s direction to Hospitals, Skilled Nursing and Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly in response to COVID 19 includes prohibiting all visitors – with very few exceptions. Visitors are vital to residents’ health and well being, and losing in person visits will be difficult for residents and their loved ones. However, there are ways you can still support someone in one of these facilities while the visitor ban is in effect.

1. Stay in contact regularly via phone, Facetime, Zoom or some other service. Many facilities are giving residents access to devices to use these services if the resident doesn’t have one of his or her own. If you get a device for a resident, make sure to include a case, a charger and mark all items with the resident’s name.

When you call, have purposeful conversations with the resident and try to get the same information you’d get from a visit: How are they’re feeling? Is their care satisfactory? Are they getting meals on time? Are they getting medication that controls their pain effectively? How are they keeping busy?
If you have concerns about their care or the situation at the facility that you cannot resolve by talking with staff, please contact the Long Term Care Ombudsman program in your area. You can find an LTCO program anywhere in the United States at https://www.n4a.org/ Although Ombudsman are not visiting facilities regularly at this time, they are available to investigate complaints and can enter a facility to do so.

2. If your loved one doesn’t communicate well by phone, talk (or email) with a nurse or other professional who cares for them regularly. (Health care facilities will usually provide information only to a resident or patient’s designated health advocate, so be prepared to send a copy of the Advance Health Care Directive or other documentation showing that the resident has given this permission.) Ask about the best time to call, when they will have an update on the resident’s current condition. Ask the same questions you’d ask on an in-person visit to the facility: Is the resident eating and drinking normally? Are they indicating they are in pain? Have there been any changes in their behavior or mood, or any new symptos? If so, find out what steps staff plans to take to address the situation; then follow up on your next call.

If you have concerns you cannot resolve with the staff member directly, do not hesitate to talk with the nursing supervisor, Director of Nursing or Administrator. If you still have concerns after that conversation, contact the Long Term Care Ombudsman program, as noted above.

3. Send or deliver “thinking of you” cards as another way to make contact. Everyone likes getting mail.

4. Send or deliver favorite foods or other treats that meet the resident’s diet restrictions, if any. Check with the facility first to find out the best way to handle the delivery.

5. Provide music, craft supplies, movies or games. Most facilities have suspended group activities, and residents have additional time on their hands. Ask the Activities staff for suggestions if you’re drawing a blank.

6. Send or deliver special personal care items, like hand lotion, hair ornaments, or slippers. Mark any new items with the resident’s name.

7. Consider providing a robotic pet. There are several types of battery-operated cats and dogs available. These are not cheap, but many older adults find them very comforting. Be sure to provide batteries. You can get a collar and name tag for the toy as a way to put the resident’s name on it.

8. If the resident can order on line, consider a gift card to a favorite store or somewhere you know they’ll find something they like.

Keep Calm and Carry On
Linda