With seniors being more susceptible to the adverse effects of COVID-19, it may be time to get the conversation going with your loved one sooner rather than later.
While the COVID-19 situation has improved in Singapore, especially with the vaccine now available, it is widely acknowledged that the crisis has been particularly hard on seniors. From being more susceptible to dying from the virus to experiencing adverse effects of various containment measures, seniors have borne the brunt of the impact.
This makes it more important than ever to start that end-of-life conversation with your loved one as soon as possible. One way to broach the topic could be to share about the COVID-19 situation and its serious impact
Although the various measures to safeguard the health and well-being of seniors may have kept the death toll low, these may have resulted in undesirable effects.
According to a press release issued by the Ministry of Health, Singapore*, seniors aged 60 and above form at least 80% of all COVID-19 deaths. The number is even higher in Singapore, where seniors made up 95% of all COVID-19 deaths. The statistics also indicated that nearly 1 in 6 or 16% developed severe symptoms and required intensive care in the hospital compared to just 0.2% of non-seniors.
At MWS Home Care & Home Hospice, many patients are facing limited access to care resources, such as foreign domestic workers who are in short supply as many have returned home and there are travel restrictions for their replacements. This results in them not being able to receive the optimal care required. Many are also more emotionally distressed due to myriad reasons, such as having to adhere to strict safe distancing guidelines and juggling the needs of other family members. In addition, they may be experiencing a higher level of anxiety when visiting hospitals and polyclinics for fear of getting infected by the virus.
*Ministry of Health, Support Measures for Seniors During COVID-19, 8 May 2020. Retrieved from https://www.moh.gov.sg/news-highlights/details/support-measures-for-seniors-during-covid-19
Carrying on the conversation
Once you’ve started the conversation, what can you talk about? Here are three ideas to consider.
If your loved one is home-bound and living alone, there is a high chance that he or she is feeling lonely. The rapid pace at which the world is moving may also add to the feeling of being isolated or left behind. Palliative home care, which provides a range of services, may be an option. At MWS Home Care & Home Hospice, there are teams of doctors, nurses and medical social workers who make regular home visits and provide round-the-clock support. Many seniors actually look forward to the visits even when they are well because of the companionship and camaraderie.
Getting care according to their wishes
While you may be focused on curative treatment to treat your loved one’s condition, he or she may have other thoughts about the care they want. Hence, it may be a good time to bring up Advance Care Planning (ACP), which promotes care that is consistent with his or her values and preferences. It guides you and the healthcare team to make decisions in your loved one’s best interests should he or she lose the mental capacity to do so. One tool that often complements ACP is the Advance Medical Directive, which informs the doctor treating your loved one to stop aggressive life-prolonging treatments should this be what he or she wishes. This helps to avoid disputes between family members when the time comes for critical medical decisions to be made.
Having a better quality of life
We all want our loved ones to be comfortable, not suffering towards the end. Yet, more often than not, the curative treatment route may cause pain and side effects. This makes it important to talk about palliative care, which gives him or her the option for pain and symptom management, as well as a higher quality of life by meeting their physical, psychological and spiritual needs. Giving your loved ones better control over their pain and symptoms will also enable them to spend their remaining time in a more meaningful manner. Palliative care could also be helpful for those who are struggling with the emotional distress and anxiety brought on by the COVID-19 situation.