coronavirus

Some Families Wait to Move Loved Ones Into Senior Living Facilities Due to COVID-19

Across the country and in Texas, clusters of COVID-19 cases have popped up at some long-term care centers, which is why some families are waiting to move their loved ones in.

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As local and state leaders drum up a plan to get back to normal, families are also waiting for guidance when it comes to long-term care facilities.

For weeks, most senior living facilities haven't allowed visitors inside their buildings in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Some people have taken their loved ones out, while others wait to place their family member in the facilities.

We’re in a holding pattern and it could be until June," said Susan Zawacki, whose mother had planned to move into a long-term care facility.

Zawacki's mother, 86-year-old Rosemarie Testolin, used to live in Florida with her husband of more than 60, years, Guido. The Army veteran died last July from COPD.

"He fought until the very end, but I think he hung on just for mom, but we got her," Zawacki said.

She said her father helped out with her mother a lot.

She said four months later, her mother tripped, fell and broke her femur. Rosemarie, also has dementia.

"Ultimately I told her, ‘I can’t take care of you like you need to be taken care of,'" Zawacki said.

She used a company called Senior Living Specialists and found the perfect place for her mom, but decided to wait and keep her at home for now, because of COVID-19.

"We wouldn’t been allowed to go in, so we would have to just drop her off with her stuff and they would sterilize it," Zawacki explained. She said she wouldn't have been able to help her mom get situated. "I didn’t like that at all. That would kill her, feel like we just abandoned her."

"It seems like a lot of it really is on hold right now," said Sarah Miller, a licensed level master social worker for Senior Living Specialists.

The company offers free services to families looking for senior housing.

Miller said for many families it can be a difficult decision to place their loved ones in a long-term care facility and said their company helps ease the burden of stress. She said they usually take families on tours of different facilities, but that's on pause because of the pandemic.

"We can’t go into the facilities and that’s been really difficult. It’s like buying a house you’ve never seen," Miller said. "It’s a very large investment for these people to move into an assisted living and doing that unseen is just so very hard."

She said a lot of communities are trying to be creative by making YouTube videos and doing tours via FaceTime or Zoom.

She said some families have opted to bring their parent home for the time being instead of having them go to a facility.

"A lot of folks are really holding and trying to see what’s going to happen," MIller said. "When people are being discharged from the hospital a lot of folks are like, ‘I’m going to bring mom home for a month, hire a paid care giver and then try to decide where we go from there.'"

Christy Byerly, a clinical liaison at Senior Living Specialist, said it can be a challenge for some families who may not have the resources to take care of an elderly person.

"A lot of families that I’ve been helping are more memory care, dementia, the families may not have the resources at home like a locked door so family members can’t get out, or doctors who can come to their house. Then you have the added stress of everyone working at home, little ones or teenagers add to stress of having senior citizen living at home," Byerly explained.

She said it's a person decision, but some families have continued to move their loved one into a facility.

"We’ve had some families that are making a decision whether to move someone, a loved one into a facility and a lot of times they’re waiting, but we’re still having several move-ins going on right now," Byerly said.

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