Last month we shared insights from caregivers detailing how the pandemic had affected their professional and personal lives. This month, we’re pleased to share another profile from a different perspective.
Marcy Baskin, CSA, eldercare consultant and managing director at a senior care authority in the San Francisco Bay Area, saw many pandemic-related challenges in her work. Baskin’s company provides eldercare consulting, senior placement assistance, advocacy, and coaching to families facing challenging care decisions for an older adult.
In her capacity as managing director, Baskin also works closely with franchisees throughout the country, many of whom experienced similar challenges during the pandemic.
How the Pandemic Affected Senior Placement
Baskin explains that pre-pandemic, her typical workday consisted of meeting with prospective and current clients and their families, creating care plans, visiting with assisted living and memory communities, and networking with her peers. But the pandemic caused significant changes to the day-to-day operations of her business.
Because senior living buildings were shut down completely, she had no direct access to them and couldn’t visit her existing clients or meet new clients in person. Building tours were prohibited for a year, and virtual tours became the norm. “Walking my clients through virtual tours was a new way of doing business on the placement side,” she explains. “A good deal of collaboration between me and the marketing director or administrator of a location was required to service clients well.”
Baskin also saw new challenges in her consulting, advocacy, and overall work to support client families. “It was more demanding as I was unable to be face-to-face during often difficult transitions. This business is all about client relationships! We all adjusted with Zoom and Facetime,” she says.
She describes the assessment of care needs for an older adult becoming a “technology nightmare” at times, since most older adults are not tech-savvy. “People living with dementia are often startled or disturbed by images of other people on a device,” she explains. “That said, many assisted living buildings put a lot of effort into facilitating electronic visits with family members, and some were very successful.”
How the Pandemic Changed Perspectives About Senior Care
Families already have concerns about caring for a loved one, but Baskin says that the pandemic added new concerns, including concerns about:
- Not being able to visit
- Uncertainty about well being and care
- How COVID-19 protocols were being executed and the safety of their family member
- The effect of isolation on their loved one
“Many assisted living/memory care buildings had severe COVID outbreaks despite following state guidelines for safety in reducing transmission. Some families went so far as to bring their loved one home, which in turn created further challenges,” she notes.
Assuaging those concerns was made more challenging by the fact that Baskin couldn’t visit buildings, clients, and their family members in person. “It is my job to bring comfort and peace of mind to families wherever possible,” she explains. “Although I could not visit someone who was living in a community or care home, I was able to talk to staff and often get their report on a resident. We also offered a free 60-minute consultation to anyone wanting to discuss their situation or get some input on how to proceed to protect their family member and perhaps reduce their own stress.”
Baskin also notes that people were finding it nearly impossible to continue to care for a family member at home, but they feared placing them in a community at the risk of contracting COVID-19. “I was able to support some of these families by helping them implement additional in-home care strategies. That said, in-home caregiving agencies were experiencing the same shortage of caregivers as the communities and care homes,” explains Baskin.
Baskin says that she feels that we’re returning to “some degree of normalcy. Families are still somewhat nervous but more open to having their loved one move to residential care and also open to meeting with me in person.
“At this time, I am cautiously breathing a sigh of relief,” she says. As residents and staff are increasingly being vaccinated, families are feeling better about moving their loved ones into senior care settings.
“During the pandemic, not only were decisions more difficult, the amount of fear around all care options was daunting and families were functioning in a new world. I believe the extra time I’ve spent with each client has helped them to navigate extraordinary circumstances with some level of calm and confidence,” she says.
Baskin closes by noting that her business grew nationally in 2020, while the assisted living business declined. “This tells us that more families realized they cannot do this alone…especially during difficult times.”