Let’s weigh the risks to seniors from elective surgeries during the pandemic. My 71-year old father lives in Maryland alone. I live in New Jersey and am his closest relative. (My brothers hightailed it to California years ago.) This past fall he had back surgery in Maryland. It was difficult to support him through the procedure and recovery from a distance, especially with two young children and a job. When he began discussing a long-overdue knee replacement, we decided he would have it done in New Jersey. The surgery was scheduled for March of this year. We were ready for him. He was anxious have the surgery to regain mobility. Then COVID. Elective surgeries were canceled the same week his surgery was scheduled.
Early last month my father received a call from his surgeon’s office: Was he ready to have the surgery? In true boomer fashion his response was “Heck yeah! What pandemic?”. My response — not the same. The hospital is the last place I want someone I love during a pandemic. The “what ifs” started. What if there are complications, and he is hospitalized longer? What if he gets a post-surgery infection and is rehospitalized? What if he needs care in the home? Will we be safe?
After family discussions, questions answered, and two negative COVID tests, my dad was cleared for surgery. It was a success. Ten days after recovering with us, he returned to Maryland. None of the “what ifs” materialized. We were lucky.
Nearly half of American adults postponed elective surgeries due to the pandemic. As seniors and their families are confronted with the choice to have the procedure, there is much to consider. A recent article in KHN provides guidance on making the decision, including what to ask. How is the facility preparing for procedures? Are COVID patients being treated at the same location? If so, will the same staff be treating me, too? What are the required COVID screening tests? Can I bring a caregiver? How do I self-monitor for COVID after the procedure? All families must make these decisions for themselves, and it is essential to be well informed.
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Roxane Crowley, Esq
Elder Care Attorney