My COVID Story: Elaine and Betty

Asking for accommodations is key to a living situation for elders I’m Elaine and my mother is Betty. Betty would […]

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Asking for accommodations is key to a living situation for elders

I’m Elaine and my mother is Betty. Betty would say that “a lady never reveals her age.”  I’ll just say that Betty is in her late 80s. I am 62. 

Betty has developed several disabilities over the years, including the loss of most of her vision. Not being able to see clearly has been a hardship for her. She loves Radio Talking Book and recorded books, but misses the routine of reading books and watching favorite TV shows. 

Betty lives in an assisted living facility in southeastern Minnesota. I live about 10 miles away. It was hard for her to give up her home. It was a sad but necessary step. Things have worked out for the better. She likes her little apartment, her neighbors and the activities offered. 

Betty is very careful about staying healthy, getting vaccines, masking up and keeping things clean. She has had COVID-19 twice. One case was mild. The other illness put her in the hospital for several days. 

We were very afraid that in the early days of the pandemic, medical equipment and accommodations would be taken away from us to help others. It was made clear that was not the case. Believe me, that was a huge relief. 

Betty’s hospitalization was very difficult. We were frustrated by the hospital staff at first. Then we were able to talk to the hospital social worker. The social worker outlined Betty’s rights as a patient, and our rights as caregivers. She directed us to the Minnesota Department of Health website, which had lots of useful information for me as a caregiver and for my mom as a patient. I’ll share details here: 

If you are a caregiver, prepare a written emergency plan and make that available to everyone who needs it. Include every detail you can about the person in your care and their unique health needs. Be clear about which disabilities are present. 

It may not be obvious to everyone that Betty is almost blind so we needed to address that. 

Take extra time to work with that person’s care team. Make everyone aware of unique issues. Because Betty cannot see people coming and going, she can be startled and upset if people surprise her. 

Be specific about disabilities and make sure they are accommodated. Does a cane or walker get moved by hospital staff, and put in a place it should not be? How many people on the staff know American Sign Language? 

Respect people and their desire to “do for themselves” when they can. Betty can feed herself and prefers to do so. She appreciates being directed to her plate and utensils and can go from there. 

Remember, hospitals should let at least one support person or legal guardian go to the hospital, visit in the hospital, or stay in the hospital with someone who has a disability or who is a child. 

MDH has numerous resources on COVID-19, including details about patients’ rights and information for caregivers.

  • "Stay safe, Minnesota. Take steps to protect yourself & others from the COVID-19 virus."
  • "Stay safe, Minnesota. Take steps to protect yourself, & others from the COVID-19 virus."

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