Caregiving During Coronavirus Part II
After over two months of sheltering in place, older adults may be experiencing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) fatigue. But, caregivers can help seniors maintain their diligence a little while longer since the coronavirus continues to be a global threat.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 8 out of 10 COVID-related deaths have been in adults 65 years old and older. According to the CDC, older adults with severe underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, lung disease, and heart disease, are at a higher risk for developing the coronavirus.
So, not only must caregivers help seniors manage their pre-existing conditions, but they also face the challenge of preventing older adults from being exposed to the virus.
Dr. Elizabeth Eckstrom, a lead geriatrician at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, recommends caregivers and family members turn their fears over COVID-19 into action that prevents seniors from getting sick. For example, Eckstrom suggests questioning the physical health of anyone visiting the home, which means going as far as checking an individual’s temperature at the door.
Without a doubt, caregivers, whether family members or paid professionals, will continue to face major challenges with the global pandemic. Still, caregivers are finding different ways to get their jobs done while promoting the advantages to older adults of sheltering in place.
Home Delivery Options
To avoid wearing a mask and gloves to pick up prescription medications, shop for groceries, and run other types of errands, caregivers are taking advantage of home delivery options and telehealth services. Among the most popular are the following:
- 1. Scheduling telemedicine appointments. Older adults can check-in with their doctors via telephone, computer, or smartphone, to talk about their health concerns, renew prescriptions, or schedule an in-person visit if a doctor deems it necessary. Health care providers have also been using telehealth services to treat COVID-19 patients.
- 2. Pharmacy Delivery Services. It’s easier to get medical supplies, prescription medications, and refills now that pharmacies and medical supply stores offer home delivery services.
- 3. No-Contact Grocery Delivery. Shoppers wanting to avoid long lines and crowds are ordering groceries online or using companies that hire personal shoppers to shop and deliver groceries.
In its own way, home delivery services promote social distancing by making it more convenient for seniors to get essential items without leaving the comforts of home.
Embracing Social Distancing
Although health officials credit social distancing for lowering the COVID-19 rates, avoiding contact with others has lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness among some older adults sheltering in place.
The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving suggests caregivers get creative with older adults who feel there is nothing left to do. What may be the key is getting them involved in new activities, such as:
- 1. Coloring or working on arts and crafts projects.
- 2. Meditating together and focusing on the good that is happening around them.
- 3. Setting aside a space to dance, to sing or perform a mini-talent show.
- 4. Playing interactive games online or board or card games.
- 5. Doing exercises that the caregiver and older adult can do together.
- 6. Journaling as a way for older adults to write down their thoughts and feelings each day and discussing their experiences with someone they trust.
- 7. Cooking new meals together.
- 8. Reading together or having the caregiver read out loud to the older adult.
- 9. Helping older adults keep a routine to provide daily structure.
- 10. Having a designated time to take a nap.
What is also important is helping older adults stay connected with others at a time when seniors centers and other activities seniors enjoy are still closed because of the pandemic.
Social distancing does not have to mean social isolation, according to Dr. Alicia Arbaje, an internal medical specialist and geriatrician at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. According to Dr. Arbaje, caregivers can show older adults how to do online chats and use apps that have captions for adults with hearing challenges. Older adults will also enjoy receiving greetings through traditional ways, such as telephone calls and encouraging notes in the mail.
Monitoring the physical health of older adults is just as critical as providing emotional support. So, caregivers must be prepared in case their older loved ones or clients fall ill with the coronavirus.
The CDC recommends watching for COVID-19 warning symptoms, such as:
- Difficulty breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
Dial 911 immediately or contact an emergency facility in advance to let the facility know about seeking care for someone who may or may not have the coronavirus.
Caring for the Caregiver
While a caregiver focuses on the needs of the older adult, the Family Caregiver Alliance says that caregivers should not forget to care for themselves.
The alliance compares it to the oxygen mask dropping down in front of passengers on an airplane. Passengers are told in emergencies to put on their masks first before helping someone else. The same goes for caregivers.
Without a doubt, caregivers are working in unprecedented times due to COVID-19. Nonetheless, one of the most significant things that caregivers can do is to take care of themselves. When a caregiver’s needs are met, older adults will profit as well.