Caregiving During Coronavirus
The coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult for caregivers to provide in-home care to older adults who are at a higher risk of contracting the disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises adults over 65, especially those with underlying health conditions, to stay away from crowds and keep a 6-foot distance from people who are sick.
While federal guidelines pretty much restrict older adults to their homes, stay-at-home orders issued by state authorities limit the movements of everyone else, including caregivers.
Many older adults rely on family members or caregivers from home care agencies to help them with daily living tasks, such as bathing, dressing, grooming, and eating, which require close contact.
Without a doubt, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) brought challenges to caregiving, but with careful planning, older adults can continue to receive in-home care and stay connected to family and friends.
Changes in Caregiving Practices
Health officials recommend older adults, their family members, live-in caregivers, and their case managers to create a caregiving plan that keeps seniors safe and healthy.
The plan can involve caregivers restricting casual visitors to the older adult’s home, and doing housekeeping chores (cooking, cleaning) at a distance. Family members can also call the local Meals on Wheels or other local food distribution organizations to determine if the older adult is eligible to receive a meal delivery.
In addition, the CDC recommends plans to include caregivers following guidelines of frequent hand washing and disinfecting surfaces to protect against the virus.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, caregivers would take older adults to doctor appointments. Many doctor’s offices, however, have canceled in-person appointments but are still taking calls. Some doctors are offering telehealth visits via computers and smartphones. So, caregivers, the older adult, or a family member, can call to arrange video appointments, if necessary.
Caregivers who provide personal care, such as bathing and grooming, must also take care of themselves. Caregivers who feel sick or have a cold, are required to stay home and contact back-up live-in caregivers or other family members.
Tips to Help Caregivers and Older Adults
To alleviate some of the caregiving stress, there are some steps family members can take to make sure older adults get what they need:
Set up home deliveries. Arrange to have groceries, medical supplies, and other essential items delivered to your relative’s house.
Order an advance supply of medication. The CDC suggests ordering a 90-day supply of prescription medications and securing over-the-counter medications, such as pain relievers and fever reducers.
Schedule bill payments. If you handle your loved one’s finances, schedule automatic bill payments. If your loved one pays his or her own bills, you can send reminders to make sure bills are paid.
Install home security technology. To make sure that your loved one’s residence is secure, you can equip your loved one’s home with a digital security system that uses a WiFi network. You can also access the video from doorbells with a built-in video camera or to outdoor floodlight security cameras via your smartphone.
Family members working with caregivers to devise plans can also consider installing smart devices inside the residence (with your loved one’s approval, that is) which caregivers can help operate. Products like Brio Care or Consumer Cellular’s GrandPad help socially distant older adults stay connected to family and friends.
Brio Care’s mobile app allows programming and scheduling of a number of daily care activities, and remind older adults when to take their medication. Brio Care also connects with Amazon Echo Show which allows older adults (with help from caregivers, if necessary) to place and receive video calls. GrandPad is a tablet, designed for seniors, that allows them to play games, listen to music, make phone calls, or place a video chat.
Caring for Older Adults with COVID-19 Symptoms
With coronavirus continuing to spread, the CDC recommends caregivers monitor older adults for COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, dry cough, and breathing difficulties.
If an older adult client exhibits symptoms but the doctor determines hospitalization is not required, the CDC advises caregivers to follow CDC guidelines on caring for someone at home with coronavirus. The guidelines include:
- Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Wear a disposable face mask and gloves when touching or having contact with the person’s bodily fluids. Throw away the face masks and gloves in a lined container after using them
- Wash laundry thoroughly
- Avoid sharing household items with the older adult
If symptoms worsen, family members should contact the doctor for further instructions.
Caregivers, whether family or non-family, can play a role in keeping older adults safe, healthy, and connected—at a distance—with family and friends, and having someone to turn to in these uncertain times.
For more information about coronavirus and older adults, visit the CDC’s COVID-19 Guidance for Older Adults webpage.