“Should we delay that procedure?”

Should your loved one go ahead with cataract surgery? What about a hip replacement? Dental work? A cardiac stress test? In light of COVID, other health issues seem to pale. But putting off treatment or tests can result in tough consequences down the line. How do you know which procedures are worth the risk?

Consider the following:

Is your loved one especially high risk? In addition to advanced age, high risk includes those who are obese or smokers, or who have cancer or a heart, lung, or kidney condition.

Is your relative’s town currently a “hot-spot”? If local transmission rates are high, best to wait until they resolve. 

Is the condition “urgent”?

  • Pain or infection. Pain is usually a sign of trouble, often an infection. Left untreated, infections can spread and even trigger sepsis, a potentially life-threatening condition.
  • Danger if you wait. Ask about the risks of doing nothing. Would delay cause lasting damage? Increase surgical complications?
  • Risk to independence. Could waiting affect your relative’s ability to live on their own? Getting cataracts removed may be more urgent if your loved one is falling or cannot drive safely.
  • Ability to participate. For those with dementia, waiting could result in more problems later because of reduced ability to participate or cooperate with the procedure.

How is risk reduced? What protections are in place on the provider side? Is a negative COVID test required before a procedure? Can that hip replacement be done as an outpatient surgery with recovery at home?

What about precautions afterward? Following a procedure, your relative may be considered a virus risk to others. Rehab or an assisted living facility may require a 10- to 14-day quarantine after discharge from the hospital. Are you and your loved one prepared to address this kind of isolation?