Judy Kucharuk: Worried for our seniors

judy

Are seniors slipping through a healthcare delivery crack in the time of COVID-19?

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It’s the unknown that is keeping our seniors from seeking healthcare support. It’s also not helpful that when things were changing so rapidly in the beginning it was difficult for everyone to keep up on The Rules. One week a clinic was closed, and emergency departments were priming for an influx of COVID patients, and the next week things have changed dramatically, but not everyone got the memo.

A conversation I read on Facebook recently went something like, “Does anyone know if I can be with my 14-year-old when she goes into emergency?” The answers were across the board. Some said, “Yes, she is a minor and you should be able to go with her,” and some said, “I was not allowed to go with my teenager – I was told to wait outside.”

No one could really answer the question because of the changes in the rules from one day to the next or one staff member to the next. I still don’t know the answer to that question.

Would I be able to be with my mom or dad during a health crisis? I can’t imagine them alone, without an advocate or support, lying on a bed in the ER.

Our healthcare professionals do their best, but of course they are stretched to the limit filling in the gaps that a family member would have normally filled, i.e. getting a blanket, assisting with personal care, noticing changes in patient as they happen in real time, providing personal comfort and attention.

The fear of not knowing if one is able to have an advocate attend an appointment with a senior is enough for that senior to dismiss their symptoms or issues as not important enough to make a fuss. I get it completely. I don’t want a doctor, nurse, or emergency physician to be exposed unnecessarily and understand that restricting accompanying caregivers is necessary. I don’t want to be exposed unnecessarily either, but… does the end always justify the means?

Underlying conditions like hearing loss or cognitive decline can create confusion and frustration for the senior patient who is participating in a phone appointment. They may miss part of the conversation or they might interpret the conversation in a manner that impedes their outcome.

I know some clinics also offer Skype or Zoom appointments, which is fabulous because the patient can see the Doc and vice versa, but I also know that there is a huge technological chasm that needs to be crossed.

This issue has been on my mind for some time and I wonder how many have slipped through the cracks.

Judy Kucharuk is a community columnist living in Dawson Creek. 

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