Coronavirus makes caregiving more difficult. But not impossible.
There’s good news and bad news about the COVID-19 pandemic.
The good news is that infection and death numbers are starting to drop in New York and other cities. The bad news is, they’re still near their peaks.
So whether you’re a family or a professional caregiver, your duties just became even more exacting.
How do you give hands-on care from a social distance of six feet away? And without either you, your elder, or your client infecting each other?
There’s bad news and good news about that too.
The bad news is, it’s not easy. The good news is, it’s possible – provided you take certain precautions.
First, prevent the spread of germs throughout the home. If you can, use a separate bedroom and bathroom from your family member. Clean all the surfaces that people touch often – counters, tabletops, doorknobs – with household cleaning sprays or wipes. Avoid sharing household items like dishes, towels and bedding. Make sure there’s access to food and other necessities, and that there’s a supply of disposable gloves on hand.
Prevent person-to-person infection. At least one of you, preferably both, should wear a cloth face covering. If N95 masks aren’t available, tightly woven cloth that covers the nose and mouth is the next best thing.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, particularly after face-to-face contact. Or use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. Cover all of your hands’ surfaces, then rub them together until they feel dry.
Learn and follow the CDC guidelines for home care. All of our home caregivers do; they even completely change their clothes between caring for one client and another.
Fill out an emergency care plan form covering your family member’s condition(s), medications, healthcare provider(s), insurance, hospital preference, caregiver resources, and emergency contacts. If you don’t know the answers, check with your family member’s primary health provider.
Take frequent temperature readings, and keep an eye out for any of the virus’s early symptoms, which can sneak up on older adults before they notice. If your family member gets sicker, runs a fever that resists medication, or, even worse, develops emergency symptoms –breathing trouble, persistent chest pain or pressure, new confusion or dazedness, and bluish lips or face – call 911and tell the dispatcher there’s a suspected case of COVID-19.
Even under the best of circumstances, social isolation can play havoc with an older adult’s emotional, cognitive, and even physical health. So it’s important to keep in contact. That contact doesn’t have to be physical, though. You can have daily face-to-face “visits” using Face Time for iPhones, Google Duo for Android, Skype, Facebook Talk, and other technology. You can shoot pictures and videos, and text or email them. It’s not the same as being there, but it’s better than just hearing your voice – which, in turn, is better than just reading texts or emails.
And if you’re feeling stressed and isolated, or have any questions about coping with the Coronavirus outbreak, please feel free to call or email us. Just as we always have, we’ll be happy to give you honest, objective answers.