DO YOU HAVE A LOVED ONE WITH ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE WHO NEEDS TO BE TESTED FOR COVID-19?
My parents recently needed to be tested before moving from an independent living community into a blended assisted living/memory care community. There were hoops to jump through that we were unaware of. So I decided to write this post in hopes that other families will be more prepared than we were before heading out to get tested.
Let’s start with a lesson in what not to do. Do NOT show up at a walk-in emergency clinic the day before your loved one is scheduled to move. Yes, we did that in June of 2020. We thought it was better to wait until right before the move, so the results would be current, with little chance for infection to occur between the test and the move. Sounds reasonable, right?
Well, that is just not how things work in the midst of a global pandemic. For one thing, there is no such thing as same-day testing with results where we live. This is not like getting a strep or a flu test where the outcome is known in a few minutes or even by the end of the day.
For another thing, walk-in clinics do not have coronavirus test kits where I live. Turns out, only the hospitals have the test kits. And get this, they won’t give you a test unless you have symptoms. Shocking, right!
WHERE ARE ALL THE DRIVE-THROUGH CLINICS PROMISED BY OUR EXECUTIVE BRANCH LEADER? WHAT HAPPENED TO … ANYONE WHO NEEDS A TEST CAN GET A TEST … !?!?
Because of a recent wandering incident, we needed to move my parents as soon as possible into a memory care community, which required a negative Covid test. Since the wandering incident, my brother, son and I had been taking turns providing 24/7 care for Mom and Dad in their living quarters to prevent another unscheduled walk off property.
We were stressed and exhausted from a week of taking turns not sleeping in our own bed at night and hurriedly packing during the day while entertaining the parents. Plus we were taking what my husband dubbed peeping Tom tours of memory care communities.
You see, it’s impossible during a global pandemic to get an indoor tour of a senior community because their residents are among the most vulnerable. Understandable. So instead, we were taking guided tours around the outside of buildings and peering into rooms to try and get a sense as to whether this would meet Mom and Dad’s needs.
When I realized we might have to keep the around-the-clock care going for another week, I was at my wit’s end. No, I can’t do it, I thought. I love my parents, but this is too much. Ordinarily, we would have called in out-of-state family to help us. But travel is risky during a pandemic, and we certainly didn’t want to put them at an increased risk of getting sick.
The stress of it all caused me to wake up one night panicked and convinced I was having a stroke. My poor husband, who had his own stresses in his new job, didn’t know what to do.
(I feel the need to pause and send out admiration and respect to all of you who have your loved one(s) with Alzheimer’s or dementia living with you full time. My husband and I decided early on that having two parents with significant memory issues was too much for us to manage in our own home. We lasted one week with the both of them living with us when we first moved them out of their home in 2016. We were not equipped to care for them full time while earning a living and raising a son.)
Now that Dad and Mom are safe in their new living quarters at a memory care community and I am sleeping through the night again, I know what we should have done to get them tested.
Call your loved one’s primary care doctor. Ask the doctor to fax an order for a Covid-19 test with expedited results to the nearest testing facility that is convenient for you.
Call the testing facility. Ask for an appointment AND confirm that they have received the doctor’s order for a Covid test. The last thing you want is for your elderly loved one to be sitting in a waiting room with potentially sick people for hours on end (yes, we did this) or sitting outside in an overheating car thanks to the summer sun.
Wear a mask AND bring a mask for your loved one. We were accustomed to wearing a mask everywhere but in our sleep-deprived state completely forgot to bring masks for Mom and Dad.
Grab your loved one’s health insurance card and picture ID before walking out the door.
Call your elected officials and report your experience. I called my state representative, state senator and governor’s office to share the difficulties in getting my parents tested.
My state senator kindly called me back and explained that the problem is one of volume. The labs in my area are not able to process the volume of tests coming in to allow for same-day testing with results. Dad was tested on a Wednesday. We received the results on the following Monday.
Be sure to call your Congressional representative and U.S. Senators, too. Let them know we need a national strategy for testing that gives priority to vulnerable populations, including Alzheimer’s patients.
I hope these steps help you with what to do when getting your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia tested for Covid-19. May your adventures with testing go more smoothly than ours did.
Please share your experience in the comments below. Information and procedures regarding Covid testing are always changing. Your info may help someone else.
We’re all in this together!