Visiting Angels

Caregivers at Visiting Angels have continued to be there for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Editor’s note: Interviews for articles in this issue of Pinal Ways were conducted in early or mid-May, and reflect the state of the industry at that time.

One of the lasting images of the coronavirus pandemic is the sight of a family seeing a grandparent or a parent from behind window glass outside of a care facility.

It’s an image of families being separated and stories of elderly residents dying alone while the families can’t get in to say goodbye that will likely have a lasting impact as the country moves into a post-pandemic world.

It’s also a world that will bring with it a lot of questions and changes as people start to rethink things moving forward.

One of those areas could be how we deal with care for the elderly. The New York Times recently reported a third of all coronavirus deaths in the United States came from nursing home residents and workers. According to the Times, 35% or at least 28,100 residents and workers at long-term-care facilities have died from the virus and it has infected more than 153,000 in 7,700 facilities.

“I think people who are making those decisions for their loved ones are looking at long-term-care facilities differently,” said Holly Miller, who with her husband Joe own and operate Visiting Angels in Casa Grande. “Because those who have people there are not able to see them for weeks and months because everybody is shut down. I think it will cause them to pause and think before they just say, let’s put them in an assisted living.”

For Holly and Joe, a post-pandemic world could mean an uptick in business as families take a closer look at the services available in homes instead of sending their loved one to a care facility.

“It’s a very viable option than going to a long-term-care facility,” Joe said. “It’s becoming more of an option because of the concerns they have with the facilities.”

Visiting Angels offers caregivers who go into a client’s home and provide care similar to what a nursing home or an assisted living facility can offer. This includes making sure the clients' medications are properly filled, bathing and other household chores that are needed.

Joe said that the caregiver is in a client’s home for a minimum of four hours, but in some cases they can provide around-the-clock care as well.

“Our mission, our goal is to keep them home for as long as they can be in a safe and healthy environment,” Joe said. “If you look at the health care industry and the aging process, most people like to be in their own environment as they age. That’s what they are most comfortable with.”

Under normal circumstances, Visiting Angels could be seen as a bridge for families who know their loved one needs additional care but may not be ready to make the full commitment of a facility.

“We run across a lot of families that want to take care of their families but they run into a lot of obstacles,” Holly said. “There biggest fear is they can’t leave Mom or Dad alone because I don’t know what they are going to do alone.”

For some clients, the caregivers are also the only human contact they might have, which can be difficult under the current times.

Both Joe and Holly said their caregivers are always checked for any symptoms and they follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

“We do training with COVID,” Holly said. “What to be aware of and minimizing their social contact. Basically the guidelines you hear every day, we are reiterating it as well — washing your hands.”

Holly added that Visiting Angels is not accepting any COVID-19 clients, saying they simply don’t have the resources to adequately care for such clients.

Meanwhile, Joe said he feels the new normal will be around for a couple years and adds that he feels it’s going to be a couple of years before the virus is better under control.

“It will be a different normal,” Joe said. “I don’t see it going back to where it was. Maybe in a few years. I don’t see it going back for at least another couple of years until we have this under better control.”