End of life planning is a complicated process; the added complications of COVID-19 make it even more urgent. The higher number of cases among older adults puts additional pressure on a sector of the healthcare system that was already stretched. Families caring for an older adult during a pandemic are faced with emotionally heavy health decisions and with very little time to engage in pertinent discussions:
- Do we bring an older loved one home from the hospital to recover there?
- What if doctors have to intubate my loved one?
- Is my loved one in a nursing home going to contract COVID-19?
- Should we put an older loved one on a ventilator if he/she contracts COVID-19?
- If I can’t visit in person, how can I talk to my loved one about end-of-life planning?
To prepare for the worst-case scenario, more families are now seeking resources for end-of-life care. Fearing the complications to COVID-19, many older adults are changing their living wills, and providers across the healthcare spectrum should be prepared to support their patients and families during this time. According to a 2013 national survey conducted by The Conversation Project, 90% of people say that talking with their loved ones about end-of-life care is important however only 27% had moved forward with end-of-life planning.
This is a sensitive topic and with restricted visitation and “family time” it is even more difficult to make these decisions. Please be alert to changes in resident condition, involve significant others in their lives as much as possible, and be the advocate they need during this challenging time. Stay the course, stay strong, stay well, mask up, and stay tuned!