Whether young or old, health care has evolved for every patient as a result of the pandemic.

And while it’s been a year of ups and downs, industry insiders have done everything they can to continue providing services at the best possible level.

The impact on the elderly population

At the start of the pandemic, seniors were at high risk not only of contracting COVID-19 but of the most serious illnesses, which prompted public health officials to be quick to self-quarantine them.

Since then, seniors have been exposed to disproportionate loss, illness, stress and isolation.

Due to the lockdown, services like Comfort Keepers provide seniors with home care for their daily activities. There has been a decline in business, according to owner and president Myles McNamara.

Comfort Keepers is not a home health care provider providing medical services. Instead, the company offers assistance with taking already prescribed medication, maintaining personal hygiene, making sure they are eating nutritious meals, staying hydrated, and keeping housekeeping simple. McNamara explained that they weren’t just transported to doctor’s appointments or other errands.

“We’re more of a concierge or personal assistant that allows you to still be in charge, but it allows you the independence to stay in your own home,” said McNamara.

For this reason, the families were able to take on these tasks when they were locked, as they too were quarantined at home.

“All families created their own quarantine bubble, if you will, and the grown children who stayed home because of the lockdown looked after their parents and did all they could at the home care level. So we’ve seen a decrease in requests for service and suspension of existing customers during this level of lockdown, ”added McNamara.

Comfort Keepers has seen a gradual return to services that closely matches the number of COVID-19 cases reported. McNamara anticipates these numbers will continue to rise as the elderly population is expected to see a dramatic increase over the next decade.

Data reported by the US Census Bureau suggests that by 2030 all baby boomers will be older than 65, with the size of the older population expected to skyrocket, with one in five Americans projected to be of retirement age.

When the SCV Committee on Aging and Los Angeles County conducted a needs assessment in 2019 when it decided to establish a new senior citizen center in the community, they found that the community expected more than 9,600 additional seniors to grow over the next four years the total to 42,000 by 2022.

The county is expected to set up an aging department by October with the goal of improving the lives of older adults with disabilities in the county.

Improving home health care

The pandemic actually allowed Facey Medical Group to develop a home health system to keep as many patients at home as possible while the number of cases rose.

“I think Medicare and others have learned from this that there are patients who overwhelm the hospital so we can manage the home,” said Dr. Joe Chambers, Chairman of Facey’s Immediate Care Division. “So, I think you will see in the next ten years that the result is what we call the ‘home hospital’.”

For example, patients who only needed oxygen would be given take-away equipment and then monitored remotely and then admitted to hospital if conditions worsened, Chambers said.

This has led Facey to set up a priority clinic to take patients to the emergency room, emergency care, or hospital to find out what they need and set it up for them at home.

This isn’t just a Facey push, Chambers added, but a national one to reduce hospital admissions.

“These types of processes will be much more sophisticated and frequent,” added Chambers. “It will be very different.”

As with other pandemic-induced industry innovations such as telehealth, these changes came and were accelerated simply by the immediate need.

Effects of COVID-19 on Mental Health Services

Anxiety, fear and stress were at all-time highs during the pandemic, which of course increased the demand for mental health services.

In fact, around 4 in 10 adults nationwide have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders – a four-fold increase from pre-pandemic levels, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

This is leading to increased drug abuse and suicidal ideation, and while reported domestic and child abuse cases have decreased, incidents have actually increased, added Monica Dedhia, program manager for access, crisis and community engagement at the Child & Family Center.

“We really saw the full range of responses to people already struggling with mental health and mental illness,” said Dedhia. “This new layer of COVID-19 and the stress it brings is definitely adding to the challenges our customers are facing.”

The pandemic also affected all of the center’s staff and all of its customers as the center worked to move quickly to virtual services.

“There were definitely some barriers to not only helping employees and our families adapt to virtual meeting technology, but also working with families who may not have had access to laptops or tablets,” added Dedhia. “Many of our families have technological inequalities.”

However, the staff have been eager to find solutions and improve public health protocols so that those who need them can continue their face-to-face visits.

“Our goal during the pandemic was to meet people where they are, and if that meant going to the field or still personally delivering as much as we can safely do,” Dedhia said. “If it were dangerous to provide telemedicine or the telephone, we would not be moving forward. We wanted to make sure that customers continue to get the services they need. “