Karrie Sarisky, Elder Care Coordinator at Kreisher Marshall & Associates, LLC. Karrie joined the KMA team in February 2020 right before the COVID-19 Pandemic hit. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience with her. Karrie works tirelessly to maintain the best qualify of life and care for our Guardian clients. Karrie moved to Bloomsburg from the Greater Philadelphia Area to attend Bloomsburg University. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and has over 17 years of experience working with the senior populations. She started out working at the Aging office as a Caseworker and then a Protective Services Worker. Protecting our senior population is one of Karrie’s passions. Karrie and her husband, Justin, live in Bloomsburg with their two sons, Jansen and Landen. In Karrie’s free time, she enjoys traveling with her family, cheerleading at her sons’ sporting events, hiking and beach time.
A hand shake, a gentle touch on the arm or a hug are normal interactions shared during a person to person meeting between a senior and their elder care coordinator. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 Pandemic has deprived us of the social interactions that we once called normal. We are now faced with learning new techniques for interacting with seniors and virtual meetings have now become part of our daily life.
Imagine, if you will, being in your later years and having to navigate through all these changes. Most seniors have to do just that. As an Elder Care Coordinator at KMA, a major part of my position is to ensure that our clients are being well cared for and their needs are being met. All of the clients I oversee are in some type of supervised facility such as an assisted living or nursing home. My office makes every effort to, and strive to, see every person several times a year and get updates at least monthly.
During my first two weeks at KMA, I was able to meet many of our clients in person, but then the pandemic struck. KMA was forced into the virtual world as a means of communication. Although this offered a solution, it in no way compared to personal interaction. Additionally, most of our clients have never used a computer, smart phone, tablet, etc. and this presented even more challenges. With the help of the facility personnel, our clients were assisted with navigating the virtual world, through Zoom, Skype, FaceTime and other video conferencing engines. During our virtual meetings however, the staff members are present which results in a complete lack of privacy between the client and myself. Because clients often have a roommate in the facility, we were also frequently interrupted from the roommate’s interjections. Furthermore the client is not always receptive to the virtual meetings. Many of our clients suffer from cognitive deficits which results in confusion that I’m a real-life person on the other end of the video and not an actress in a TV show. Also, due to our rural area, we would often experience many internet glitches.
Recently many facilities have begun in-person visitations with their residents, our clients. It has been a privilege to start having face-to face interactions again even though the interactions fall short of the interactions we were used to before the pandemic. The post-pandemic interactions look a lot different. I have held window visits, where I talk to the client through their window screen. I was able to see the client but oftentimes the windows are near a busy road and at all visitations, the client and myself are wearing masks. I have also held a “Chatter Box” meeting where the client was in a Plexiglas booth while we both wore mask. In these visits it was very difficult to hear and be heard. It became clear to me just how much we rely on lip-reading as a form of communication. Despite the difficulties, these meetings were all in person and the client was noticeably happier and offered more conversation as compared to the virtual meetings.
2020 has provided us all with the opportunity to become more technologically savvy. As we hopefully move toward the end of this Pandemic we need to find a way to effectively combine the virtual with personal interaction. With virtual conferencing, we can connect with family members from all over the world while sitting in person with the client. Although we are able to connect in these ways we need to be cautions to not let our elderly get lost in this new virtual world. We can never replace the emotion and sincerity behind a hand shake, a gentle touch or hug but for now, we need to ensure our clients that we are making every effort to communicate with them.