Solos: They Are Looking For You

Those who serve older adults periodically come across individuals with no children or children who live at a distance from them. Historically, most adults aged 65 and above seemed to have at least one family member who could provide some measure of care and support. That situation is now changing, however, in a big way, and will continue to change long into the future.

A growing portion of the “Baby Boom” generation is composed of “solos.” These are individuals who cannot or do not rely on family to help navigate life events and make health decisions. Having no children or children at a distance continue to be important reasons. But other common risks for “solo-ness” include having a dysfunctional family or being estranged from them, along with extreme independence, lack of social skills, and/or reclusiveness.

Recent research is beginning to reveal still another factor in solo-ness, however. Many are electing to limit the involvement of family when support is needed or not to involve them at all, even when relationships are solid. For example, a 2016 study from the Center for Public Affairs Research found that 22% of respondents would prefer to receive “living assistance” from a professional home health aide rather than family. An additional 6% said they didn’t know who they would choose to provide support. No one knows how many solos age 55+ there are now or will be in the future, though preliminary estimates suggest this definition could apply to 23% to 30% of older adults.

Because of improved health and greater longevity, demographers believe that most people today can look forward to a “long middle” of good functioning. Still, during these years, older adults may experience unexpected health events, short-term illnesses, or other well-being issues that require decisions and action. With the historical focus on the frail elderly, it is easy to overlook the fact that even adults with physical and mental capacity may need assistance in choosing providers or services, navigating health care systems, planning for care after a procedure, and/or advocating on their own behalf, among other such tasks.

When family are not in the picture, there is a huge decision support gap for solos. This gap offers a good opportunity for those with relevant skills, such as individuals in Aging Life Care professions, to step in. Solos are often on the lookout for individuals who can be part of their personal safety net and help with the small, but common health and well being decisions likely to arise during the long middle.

Solos don’t always know where to look for such assistance, though, so it is important to keep solos in mind when designing outreach efforts. If you are able to offer services to solos, make sure you speak to them directly in your promotional materials and web sites. Indicate that you serve solos and people with families alike. Be specific about the services you offer, such as supporter, health advocate, emergency contact, navigator, etc. Highlight your services to solos at senior resource fairs and presentations.

About the Author: Linda J. Camp is an independent consultant, writer, and researcher. Her work focuses on strategic planning, systems analysis, and change management for non-profits and local government. From 2017-2019 she served as Project Manager for a Bush Foundation funded project on health decision making by/for solo older adults. You can reach her at:

This article originally appeared in the ALCA Midwest Chapter member newsletter – Issue. No. 69 – Summer 2021.

ALCA Member Spotlight—Ann Burke, Cincinnati, Ohio

Ann Sutton BurkeThis week we are spotlighting one of our members and recipient of the ALCA Midwest Chapter Outstanding Member Award for 2020 – Ann Sutton Burke.

Tell us about your current practice?
The practice I manage is CareLink, Your Experts in Aging based in Cincinnati Ohio. It is part of a non-profit agency, Jewish Family Service (JFS) of the Cincinnati area. At JFS I also wear the hat of Vice President, Client Services. Not only do we offer care management in our private practice but also to clients who have financial hardship via funding from grants, contracts and donations. Very rewarding work!

How long have you been a member of the ALCA? What is your best experience thus far?
I have been a member since 2010 and by far my best experience is meeting other Aging Life Care Professionals. If you know me, you have probably heard me say when I went to my first national conference I had found my people. I also served on the Board of the Midwest Chapter. I encourage others to consider doing so, as it was a great way to get to know other ALCA members at a more personal level and give back. Currently I chair the national public policy committee and again have had amazing experiences working alongside other members on important issues to our work. I also have to give a shout out to my local unit with whose members I have had great camaraderie and support.

Tell us about something you do in your business that really helps you get you results? What is an area of running your practice where you want to grow your expertise?
One of strategic planning pillars we have is “Everyone’s a VIP”. I believe in the goal of exceptional customer service, which begins by listening to your clients and families.
As a nonprofit, I must deal with a higher overhead so I always value business acumen particularly in how others run their successful practices. Any ideas to make our practice as efficient as possible in how we do business is useful to me.

Tell us about a best clinical practice used in your business? What do you want to learn more about from a clinical perspective?
We also offer counseling or therapy to our clients. I feel care management and counseling are good complimentary services.

My particular interest is ageism. I want to be sure I continually learn how to allow older adults to retain as much decision making power over their circumstances as possible. Besides, we are all going to be old one day ourselves, right?

Marketing, sales, and branding are so important to a successful practice. What is your best tip? What is something you thought would work but just did not get the results you wanted?
Relationship building is the most important to getting new business in my opinion. As an introvert by nature, I often channel the ‘relating to others’ strength I have into doing marketing. Again, the word listen is important here as well as what problem you can solve of that referral source.

I recall a meeting some other ALCA members and I had with the head of a local aging organization. I thought it would be an easy meeting and this executive would understand what we did right out of the gate. She did not. It taught me never assume people will understand what we do. Communicate a clear compelling vison.

Conferences both the Midwest and National are important opportunities for members. What is your favorite conference take away or memory?
My favorite conference was my first national in Philly. I was amazed at how warm and welcoming everyone was but even more so how eager ALCA members were to share about what worked or did not in their business practices.

What is the dream for your practice?
Well, I am closer to retirement than not, so setting up our practice to be successful after I retire is important to me. I still feel I have much to accomplish with ALCA and with the practice so I’m not going anywhere soon!

What’s your favorite moment of your running your practice so far?
Honestly, it is when I have talked to a family and know I have helped them. They are often so grateful. It really makes my day, month, and year!

How did you get into Aging Life Care™?
The former manager of our practice was a member so when she moved out of state, I thought it was important to join. So glad I did.

And for fun what is your “guilty pleasure” in life: What can you not live without?
Well, I might deny it but reality competition shows: cooking, dancing, singing etc. That is my way to escape.

Anything else you’d like the Midwest Chapter or membership at large to know about you, your practice or our association?
I want to thank the Chapter for the award for Outstanding Member. It was quite a shock and very humbling. Normally it is awarded at the National conference but with the pandemic, it was virtual. It was a beautiful day and so I had stopped at a park on the way home to listen to the presentation. I’m sure the folks in the park were wondering why I was choked up! It means a lot as the Board and Chapter members are folks I admire and look up to.

This article originally appeared in the ALCA Midwest Chapter Member newsletter Issue No. 69 – Summer 2021.

Quality of Life – What Really Matters

Helen is 93 years old and has lived at an assisted living community since she was 90. She has a one-room suite with her own bathroom. It is decorated with her favorite things and whatever furniture that would fit. She has one window that overlooks some trees and a strategically placed bird feeder.

Tom is 84 years old and is living in a long-term care facility as the result of fall and several other medical issues, requiring 24-hour care and support. Due to his finances, he shares a room. He does not mind having a roommate, even though they do not have much in common or converse often. His side of the room has a bed, dresser, small closet, nightstand and a shared bathroom. 

In the healthcare arena, we often hear the phrase “quality of life.” Quality of life is viewed as multidimensional, encompassing emotional, physical, material and social well-being. Quality of life varies from person to person and changes throughout a lifetime. The term or concept is used often with older adults.  

What makes the difference in Helen and Tom’s quality of life? If we listen, really listen, they share the secrets to what makes a good day, regardless of health, finances or their current life circumstances — including long periods of isolation. Whether in a long-term care facility or a brand-new assisted living facility, their answers may surprise you. I rarely hear someone say, “My life would be better today if only: I were  younger, I did not have this disease or condition, my room were bigger/brighter/had more windows, or even if my spouse were alive or family would visit more often.”

What makes the difference in the quality of their days are the interactions with the staff — meaning caregivers, aides, care helpers or whatever name a facility uses for the individuals providing the direct care services and support.

Helen and Tom, like so many older adults residing in various senior communities, often express the same five key factors that, if observed by staff members, would truly make a difference in their day:

  1. Introduce yourself, looking the person in the eyes. Re-introduce yourself every time. Living in a facility with 24-hour care, there are many different faces coming and going each day; add in face masks and often older adults have no idea who may be trying to assist them. It takes a long time to get to know someone, recognize their voice, their face and finally, their name. Most staff are in and out of an older adult’s room or apartment within a matter of minutes. Often, staff will wear name tags, but unless the tag is showing directly in front the older adult with the staff person holding still, and the font size is readable, a name tag is not the answer. Example: Helen was looking out her window when she heard a slight knock on her apartment door and then a voice saying something, but she could not make it out. By the time she turned her wheelchair around to look at the door, it was closing. Helen had no idea who or why someone was just in her room. Later that evening, Helen saw mail on her bed. She had no idea how or when it arrived. The staff caregiver could have turned this quick task into a positive, appreciative interaction that built Helen’s trust, and over time, a sense of belonging. When the caregiver entered the room, she could have waited a moment for Helen to turn around and see her. Then the caregiver would have had the opportunity to look at Helen and say, “Hello Helen, it’s Jennifer. I am stopping by to bring you your mail. Would you like me to give it to you or should I leave it on your bed?” 
  2. Slow down. We live in a fast-paced world where we often multi-task. Older adults dealing with co-morbidities from hearing loss, mobility issues and a range of diseases and conditions move and respond at a much slower pace. Rattling off five commands in a row can be overwhelming. “Dolores, dinner is ready, do you want chicken or fish? Go wash your hands, don’t forget your walker and it is your laundry night.” 
  1. It’s not what you say but how you say it. Tone of voice and the way something is phrased matters; asking versus telling. For example: “Helen, today is Tuesday and you are scheduled for a shower, how does that sound to you?  Instead of, “Come on, you have to take a shower now; it’s on the schedule.” 
  1. Let the individual know what you are doing. The staff caregiver should always tell someone what they are going to do before they do it. Never put hands on someone without letting them know. Example: “John, before they bring your dinner, I am going to help get you ready. I am going to move your walker in front of you, and help you get to the edge of your chair so you can get ready to stand up.” 
  1. Slow Down! Slow Down. Slow Down. Trying to rush older adults to get to the shower, to an appointment, or to dinner can be difficult and counterproductive on the older adult. Example: pushing an older adult quickly in their wheelchair, not realizing how terrifying and out of control the older person feels. We need to respect the pace at which each person functions best and adjust care and supports accordingly. 

What seems like simple common sense often is not so common or simple.  Whether the issue is staff shortages, a need for increased training and/or understanding how fast we move through our day, we need to listen to Helen, Tom and all of our older adults. If we and senior communities care about the quality of life for older adults, we need to focus on the quality of each day and what makes a quality day. 

This post originally appeared here.

About the Author: Jennifer Beach, LSW, MA, C-SWCM established Advocate for Elders in Rocky River in 2010. Jennifer has 25 years of experience in working with and advocating for older adults and their families. Jennifer is a licensed, insured Social Worker and an Advanced Aging Life Care® Professional. She has served as the Midwest Chapter President of the Aging Life Care Association and additionally served 7 years on the Board of Directors. In 2018, Jennifer was honored as the recipient of the ALCA Midwest Chapter Outstanding Member of the Year Award. Learn more at

Jennifer is also a monthly contributor and author of Caregiver Corner for Northeast Ohio Boomer and Beyond blog and magazine.

Older Adults Admit New Technology is More Stressful Than Going to the Dentist

Older Adults Admit High Anxiety and Fear About New Technology: Candoo Tech Surveys Shows 53% of Seniors Say Learning a New Device is More Stressful Than Going to the Dentist

The results of a recent survey of technology-enabled older adults show that for 53% of them, learning new tech devices such as a computer or cellphone, produced more anxiety and fear than going to the dentist, to the doctor and hearing a strange noise at night – combined!

The results of a survey of adults age 60+ conducted by Candoo Tech ( shows that older adults feel learning a new tech device is more frightening than hearing a strange noise at night, going to the dentist and going to the doctor – combined! Fifty-seven percent of seniors fear internet scams, hacks and computer viruses. When giving the grandparents a gift, skip the books and slippers, older folks really want a personal tech coach.

The informal poll taken by Candoo Tech, a technology training and support service specifically for older adults, also asked participants to rank their frustration level with learning something new on an electronic device. Respondents ranked it right up there with waiting in line at the motor vehicle bureau, and more frustrating that being stuck in traffic.

Despite their fear and frustration, seniors want to be connected. Forty-six percent (46%)  of respondents picked “personal tech coach” as the number one item on their wish list. That’s more than twice the number who want a new tech device, the second choice (21%); which interestingly beat out the “old school” gift, a book, by only one percentage point.

With COVID-19 travel and visitation restrictions, grandparents are more likely to spend time with family and friends online. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of respondents said they will be visiting virtually through video calls.

While 44% of seniors shopped online for the holidays, 57% are concerned about risks of internet scams, account hacks or computer viruses, and with good reason. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), received more than 68,000 complaints in 2019 from victims over age 60 who experienced losses of more than $835 million. Only 8% of Candoo Tech survey respondents think they are too smart to fall for a scam.

“Unfortunately, older adults are often prime targets for cyber-criminals,  because they are perceived not to be tech savvy,” said Liz Hamburg, founder and CEO of Candoo Tech. “One client answered a call from someone posing as a Microsoft technician and let him into her computer remotely. She finally caught on when he demanded to be paid with gift cards, but by then, the damage was done. Helping seniors stay safe online is a priority for Candoo Tech.”

Candoo Tech provides tech support and training specifically designed for older adults to help them stay safe, independent and connected.  Candoo’s services are provided remotely nationwide by U.S. based Tech Concierges who are specially-trained by a New York City geriatric health institution, cognitive enrichment specialists and other geriatric experts to work with older adults, including those with disabilities. Candoo Tech offers three service options: a one-hour remote session for $50; an annual membership for $180 which includes two, 90-minute training or support sessions and unlimited quick help; and a new device set-up and training package for $180.  The company offers free how-to guides and internet safety tips to help seniors connect, shop and engage safely through technology.

The company was founded by entrepreneur Liz Hamburg in 2019 and has been working with older adults and their families directly as well as with senior living facilities and other organizations. Candoo has seen that with the proper training and support, older adults realize that they  ‘candoo it’.” Candoo Tech is a proud member of the inaugural class of Techstars Future of Longevity Accelerator in partnership with Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company created by Melinda Gates.

This blog originally appeared here.

About the Author: Liz Hamburg, Candoo Founder. Liz is a high-energy, entrepreneurial executive who is passionate about making an impact in the world. She has over 20 years of experience starting up and growing innovative organizations both in the U.S. and international markets.

Are You Prepared for a Loved One’s Care Transition?

Without a doubt, one of the hardest things for families to do is help an aging loved one transition back home from a hospital or rehab center stay – and the stakes are huge. Many older adults who leave the hospital will be readmitted within 30 days for a variety of reasons, such as falls, non-adherence to medication regimens, or a lack of follow-up care.

The good news is that most readmissions are preventable. I always recommend families begin coordinating the transition to home as soon as their loved one is admitted to the hospital.

Here are the top 5 things families need to know about transitions:

  1. It takes a lot of appointments, emails and phone calls to coordinate care. For families that are reeling from a loved one’s sudden health event, the load can be too much to bear. Aging Life Care Professionals® can make all the difference. They help families navigate every detail of medical care, food, transportation, home modifications for safety and filling medications to get home ready for the patient after discharge. They also act as a quarterback of the entire Care Team to ensure everyone is on the same page for a seamless transition.
  2. Home may not be “home,” at least initially. Don’t assume your mom or dad will go right home after a hospital stay. It’s common for older adults to go to a rehabilitation center, “step-down unit”, or nursing home before they can return safely to their homes. About 25% of people admitted to these facilities stay only a short time (3 months or less), according to, but 90 days can feel like a long time if your loved one is isolated from family and friends. If you live far away, consider hiring a private-duty caregiver to check-in on your loved one so they have a reliable, friendly face to keep them engaged and working toward recovery.
  3. Exceptional in-home care means more than simply assisting with activities of daily living. Help with bathing, dressing, and eating are just the baseline of care. Excellent caregivers will get to know your family member’s likes and dislikes and understand how to spark their interest in hobbies, exercise, conversation and other activities that bring joy and meaning to their lives.
  4. You might not have the right caregiver fit the first time around. There may be relationship tension, just like on a first date, so you must give it time. As time goes on, if the caregiver doesn’t work out, speak up and ask your agency to find another caregiver. This is where an Aging Life Care Professional® can be a great quarterback to assist in finding a qualified caregiver. A high-quality agency will be happy to have this conversation with you and will work with you to find the right fit.
  5. It takes time to adjust to the new normal – for everyone. Give yourself grace and space to accept your family member’s physical or cognitive loss. Give them time to do the same. If you or your loved one would benefit from mental health resources, ask an Aging Life Care Professional for recommendations.

The most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to plan a home transition by yourself. Every community has resources to help you. Find Aging Life Care Professionals near you.

About the Author: Nancy Gillette is Chief Growth Officer for the HouseWorks companies, one of the largest independent in-home care companies in the nation. She has more than 20 years of experience in the home care and post-acute fields growing revenue, building strategic relationships and diversifying product offerings. View Nancy’s LinkedIn profile. Nancy spoke at the ALCA 37th Annual Conference in 2021.

Dealing with Delta

The Delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading with alarming speed among the unvaccinated. As a protection to yourself, and your community,  unvaccinated individuals should get the shot as soon as possible. Immunity can take up to 6 weeks to develop, and we must all do our part in stopping the spread of this virus. In order to remain safe and help prevent the spread while waiting for immunity, the CDC recommends avoiding all public indoor settings and limiting outdoor gatherings where it is difficult to socially distance outdoors or consider mask-wearing in outdoor situations where social distancing is not possible. Wear a mask when congregating in public places indoors, because there is a higher risk for contracting the virus if masks are removed to dine or drink. Monitor symptoms closely, test often, contact trace, and isolate if infected.

What about the vaccinated?  In light of recent breakthrough infections, should vaccinated individuals also be masking up?  In making this decision, a few important questions should be considered:

What is your personal health and risk tolerance?

What are the infection and vaccination rates in your community?

Do you know the vaccinated status of people you are congregating with?

Are you caring for an elderly or immunocompromised individual?

Are there unvaccinated people in your household?

The current consensus among the medical experts is that fully vaccinated people should resume wearing masks indoors in community settings where there are high infectivity rates. This is because the Delta variant is a thousand times more infectious than the original Covid-19 strain and while the vaccine will protect against serious disease and illness, there is a small risk of breakthrough infections because of the increased disease spread happening all over the US right now. Once we can get our vaccination rates up to 80% across the nation, infectivity rates should decrease dramatically, and we will be able to relax the mask guidelines and resume a normal life providing no future more lethal variants emerge.

So, let’s help each other out and do our best to deal with Delta and stop the spread of COVID. If you are vaccinated, be a positive role model and continue to listen to and encourage unvaccinated friends and family to get the jab. Share your positive experiences, help dispel fears and let them know you care for their well-being. If you are not yet vaccinated, examine your reasons for not getting the shot. Is your decision based on unbiased scientific information or the biased views and posts of similar folks who are also hesitant? For example, if you broke your arm tomorrow, you would seek the advice of medical professionals–not your newest Facebook friend. Remember, that your decision on getting vaccinated does not just affect your own health and well-being, it affects the health of everyone around you but most especially children who are not yet eligible for the vaccine and who are extremely vulnerable to the Delta variant. They are counting on the adults around them to keep them safe and protect them by making a choice that is bigger than themselves – a choice to get vaccinated.

This article originally appeared here.

About the Author: Anne C. Sansevero, RN, MA, GNP, CCM is the founder and CEO of HealthSense LLC, an Aging Life Care management consulting practice. She is a master’s prepared geriatric nurse practitioner, and a seasoned nursing professional with over 30 years of experience in the field. Anne has a sub-specialty in neurological disorders and is well versed in all aspects of geriatric nursing. She has particular expertise with communication disorders relating to stroke and dementia and has developed a number of innovative nursing assessment tools and standards to improve the nursing care for frail elders. Anne is a member of the Aging Life Care Association® (ALCA) and Fellow of the Aging Life Care Leadership Academy. She is currently serving on the board of the ALCA, and is Vice President of the New York Chapter. In addition, Anne is a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the Nurse Practitioners of New York. Anne is a registered nurse, certified care manager, and a master’s prepared geriatric nurse practitioner.

“Born in Ireland, I come from a strong medical family of physicians and nurses. I was naturally drawn to a career in health care where you can make a real difference in the lives of others. In the 1980s, I was recruited for a nursing career opportunity in the United States and fell in love with the energy and optimism that is part of this country’s cultural DNA. In the acute care work setting, I became very attuned to how stressful hospitalization can be for older, frail adults. I found my calling as a nurse practitioner and Aging Life Care Professional while advocating for the elderly and working to improve their quality of life and to avoid hospitalizations. I have a deep appreciation for the wisdom and resilience that I see in my older clients and feel grateful to be able to contribute to helping them and their families lead happier lives.” “

A Daughter’s Plea, A Mother’s Rebuttal

Like in the childhood game, “telephone,” the first call came from the neighbor across the street, who called the son in Pennsylvania who, in turn, called his sister in Maine, who, in turn, called me, the eldercare consultant in New Rochelle, New York. The town their mother, and I, called home.

It seems the neighbor across the street observed their ninety-two-year-old mother taking her garbage to the curb. How, she inquired of the son, could he and his sister be so neglectful? While it wasn’t her words exactly, it was more the tone of her voice, that spurred this action. I imagine the neighbor was trying to be helpful. Given the adult children’s geographic distance, perhaps she thought they were not aware of what was taking place during these thrice-weekly jaunts to the curb.  The truth be known, the son and daughter had been trying, unsuccessfully, for years to persuade their mother to just give a companion a try.

Despite hints of early dementia, the mother was readily able to reiterate to her children all the reasons for not wanting anyone coming to her house. To start, she was not having difficulty managing on her own. Regarding her shopping needs, what she was not able to pick up in the supermarket, there was a “COVID Volunteer” from her local synagogue she could count on. A companion would interfere with her privacy. Hinging on that, she had her sentimental belongings throughout the house and was certain they would disappear within a week of the companion’s arrival.  And so, it was with this background that a daughter, undaunted by her mother’s past rebuttals, called this eldercare consultant, confident that what she and her brother were unable to do, I could accomplish.

With the expectations of the adult children and the neighbor on my shoulders, I met with the mother. She was welcoming and showed me around her home. I was slightly suspicious. Tours usually come after a client gets to know me. Perhaps the unsolicited tour was to make a point about her capabilities or maybe she was just being hospitable. With the sightseeing out of the way, we got down to the reason for my visit. Mom was well-rehearsed.  She conveyed to me all the same reasons she had shared with her children.

This type of resistance is not unusual. As Aging Life Care Managers® we come across this kind of struggle frequently. The mother recognized that accepting help brings with it relinquishing privacy and adjusting to a new routine. She saw it as a sign of weakness to acquiesce. The daughter declared sheer frustration. Her mother failed to recognize that a little bit of help could go a long way to ensuring her continued safety and longevity in her home.

While empathizing with each of the mother’s reasons for refusing help, we Aging Life Care Professionals® have many strategies that we can choose from to try to resolve a particular issue. But sometimes, despite our best efforts, high expectations do not bring the hoped-for results.  (Miracle worker does not appear in our job description or websites.) And so it was with this Aging Life Care Professional, me.

I used one of my tried and true strategies.  “Give it a try, just for a few weeks” Not a budge. “How about if you think about it?” I asked. Affirmative. And with that, I said I would give her a call in a few weeks.

“I’m happy you didn’t forget about me,” she said two weeks later. And in the same breath, said she would be in touch with me when the time was right. Will the time ever be right I thought to myself?  Or will the next call be from the daughter, all her mother’s excuses banished, replaced with an urgent appeal for help.

Wherever you are in your aging care management process, Aging Life Care Professionals are available and eager to help families of older adults. While it’s ideal for us to become a part of the solution before a crisis arises, we are full of resources to help in the event of an emergency too. Don’t delay and find one who can help you and your family.

About the Author: Miriam Zucker, LMSW, ACSW, C-ASWCM, is the founder of Directions in Aging, based in New Rochelle, New York, Westchester County.  As an Aging Life Care consultant with over two decades of experience, she has helped families find strategies to deal with the challenges of aging, while maintaining the stability of the family and the dignity of the senior.

In conjunction with the Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging, of Hunter College, she helped to develop the Certificate Program in Geriatric Care Management where she served as a faculty instructor. She currently serves on the board of New Rochelle Cares, an aging-in-place program focused on helping seniors remain safely in their homes.

Is it time for the homecare industry to mandate vaccinations?

I recently had a simple request from an elderly patient’s wife after her husband had a short stay in a rehabilitation facility. “I want the home health aide that comes to my house to be vaccinated,” she requested. Prior to my patient’s discharge from the sub-acute facility, the social worker sending out the referrals to the home care agencies was made aware of this request. After the agency’s nurse came over to my patient’s home to evaluate him, the evaluating nurse declared “We simply do not have vaccinated aides.” The family and I then asked that the case be sent to one of the largest home care agencies in New York City with the hopes of getting a vaccinated aide.

Again, before the nurse’s home assessment, we asked for a vaccinated aide. We were told the onboarding team would be sent a note to be made aware of our preference. However, we faced the same plight where the agency could not identify a “vaccinated aide” because of HIPPA laws. Surely, the patient has a right to ask a home care agency if the individual coming to their home during a pandemic is vaccinated? After all, there was a recent case in New Jersey where an aide with Covid-19 spread the virus to her 80-year-old patient who later died and also infected four other individuals living in the home. I reached out to the New York Department of Health for guidance and was told in New York, there is no mandate for home care workers to be vaccinated, but the patient maintains their right to ask if the aide is vaccinated. With that information, I asked for the family to get permission to interview the home health aide to see if they would be a good match for the family. We were told they would get back to us.

Finally, I spoke to the Compliance Department and Director at the home care agency. I was told the home care staff is not tested on a daily basis prior to starting their workday and that aides are only tested if they show symptoms of COVID-19. Moreover, I was told personal protective equipment (PPE) is only issued if the patient is suspected of having COVID-19. We ended up discussing the cost of testing and PPE.

I voiced my concern about resources in institutions not being put towards the frontline patients and workers. I also asked if there have been cases where a patient had gotten COVID-19 from a home care employee. I was told that is propriety information. Clearly, there is something wrong here. It is in the public’s interest to know if a vulnerable individual dies because a home care worker infected them or vice versa. I respect individual’s rights not to choose to be vaccinated, but I also believe the aides have a right to PPE that will protect them. Vulnerable people turning to home care agencies should have the right to receive safe care in their homes.

Instead of waiting for New York Department of Health regulations that will “force” home care agencies to protect their patient. I ask the leadership of the home care agencies to reflect for one minute as to why they went into healthcare. Most of you will say “to help people.” Now look at the home care staff you are sending to the patient homes without proper PPE, look at the vulnerable patients you are treating in the community, and reflect. Are you helping people, or are you placing people’s lives at risk? I am encouraging all home care agency’s management to do the right thing and encourage your staff to get vaccinated or get tested on a weekly basis with the availability of proper PPE. A gown and face shield should be a standard during a pandemic, especially if the aids are not vaccinated. After all, this is healthcare, and if there are no patients or employees left, how will you survive?

This article originally appeared here.

About the Author:  Jangir Sultan, OTR/L, MS AT, LNHA, is the founder and CEO of Patient Advocates of NY. Born in Brooklyn, NY, and raised in England, Jangir’s father sent him to live with his grandparents in the Himalayas at the age of 10 when he sought more information about his heritage. Once there, he took pride in learning about his cultural heritage but also took a role in helping to care for his grandparents. With this experience, his passion was ignited, and he returned to the United States, determined to pursue a career related to eldercare. He has worked in various healthcare settings and roles such as OT Manager, Regional Director of Rehabilitation, and Director of Specialty Programs. One theme that has remained consistent is his focus on providing his clients with the best care possible. Hence, he created Patient Advocates of New York with the mission of changing healthcare from what it is to what it should be: prioritizing the client and providing him/her with the highest quality care.